Judge finds multi-million-dollar condominium developer unaccountable for alleged fraud after 10-year legal battle

By Elizabeth Alt | May 18, 2017

MIAMI — After 10 years of courtrooms, real estate developer R. Donahue Peebles, principal for Collins Avenue LLC and owner of PADC, has won the case that alleged he was responsible for owed commissions to a former employee. 

Peebles appealed a 2015 jury ruling that awarded Dora Puig, former employee of Collins Avenue, $423,100 in damages for fraudulent misrepresentation. Puig, a real estate broker, filed the original lawsuit in 2006.

On May 10, Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court Judge Sarah I. Zabel in Miami-Dade County reversed the trial court’s decision, saying there is no evidence from the jury’s findings of any separate damages incurred by Peebles that are independent and distinct from PADC’s breach of contract. In the court opinion, Zabel stated that Peebles did not have an individual responsibility to Puig for the damages she alleged she suffered. The claims against the defendant were not separate from the claim that the brokerage, PADC, breached their contract with Puig when they did not pay for the commissions.

"As reprehensible as the jury may have found Peebles’s actions to be, those actions neither converted Puig’s claim for contract damages into a claim for tort damages, nor imposed on Peebles personal liability for PADC’s contractual obligations.’ Zabel stated in the judicial opinion.

Don Peebles   Judae1 via Wikimedia Commons

This decision could enable Peebles to file suit against Puig for attorney fees incurred over the past 10 years.

Puig was hired by Peebles in 2000 as the sales and marketing director for The Residences at Bath Club — a high-end condominium complex in Miami Beach that Peebles, a real estate mogul that Forbes estimated in 2015 to have a net worth over $700 million, had purchased two years prior.

In 2004, Peebles formed PADC Marketing to market and broker the reselling of Bath Club units. Puig and the sales team were authorized to offer developer units for re-sale, and claimed Peebles told them that they would receive commission. In November 2005, Peebles signed several checks for resale compensation to Puig. Puig sold 23 resales totaling close to $43 million.

In December 2005, Peebles directed his accounting department to recall the commission payments from resales. Stating these checks had been made in error, Peebles told Puig she was not entitled to any additional payment for these resales, only the commission from the original sales of the Bath Club condos.

Puig filed the lawsuit in 2006, originally suing PADC and Collins Avenue, alleging breach of contract, unjust enrichment and quantum meruit. She later amended it to add Peebles as a defendant, most notably, to add a count of fraudulent misrepresentation to Peebles individually.

Puig sought damages in the amount of $423,100, representing the amount of commission she claimed she was owed. 

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