In its ongoing lawsuit against the Virgin Valley Water District that began in May 2018, Wolf Creek golf course filed an amended complaint on July 31 alleging abuse of process by the district and its attorneys. Most of the other allegations filed in the original complaint remained the same.
Wolf Creek’s allegation of abuse of process says, without much supporting detail, that “the District sent copies of pleadings and documents produced during discovery to one or more local media outlets and coordinated with local media for an ulterior purpose other than resolving a legal dispute and done with the ulterior purpose to counter certain negative publicity and/or gain favorable publicity and to intimidate, outspend, and outsue Plaintiff.”
The court document also says that the abuse was “done with the additional ulterior purpose to coerce Plaintiff’s return of up to 45 leased water shares where the parties’ lease includes no such requirement and with the additional ulterior purpose to force either Paradise Canyon’s acceptance of the District’s rate hike or forfeiture of all 155 leased shares in order to earn a higher profit on those shares from out-of-market third party SNWA.
On Aug. 15, VVWD filed a motion with the court to dismiss the abuse of process complaint. The court document says, “The only public disclosures of case information by the District have been required pursuant to Nevada’s public records law, for which the District is absolutely immune.”
Wolf Creek’s claim that the District has engaged in some kind of concerted publicity campaign to demonize Wolf Creek is belied by two simple, uncontestable facts: I) the District is a public entity governed by Nevada’s public records law and, as such, must provide nonconfidential records in its possession to members of the public who request them; and 2) even according to the terms of Wolf Creek’s second amended complaint, the District has done no more than release case documents, which are matters of public record anyway.
Thus, Wolf Creek is alleging that the District’s compliance with NRS 239 [public records law] constitutes an abuse of process. The allegation is absurd and comes nowhere close to constituting a basis for an abuse of process claim. Wolf Creek’s argument is apparently that providing case documents (the vast majority of which have been filed in this Court and are public record anyway) to the press somehow casts Wolf Creek in a negative light; so negatively, in fact, that Wolf Creek feels pressured to settle this case.
The District agrees with Wolf Creek: the facts of the case do portray Wolf Creek as a greedy luxury golf course insisting on setting its own ultra-cheap lease rates, at the expense of every other ratepayer and resident in the District’s service area, and in direct contradiction to the lease Wolf Creek aggressively negotiated for. However, this isn’t the result of some ‘evil scheme’ to smear Wolf Creek with bad publicity. Those are just the facts of the case. Wolf Creek created the situation and now complains that the public has discovered how frivolous Wolf Creek’s case is.”
In addition, the District’s opposition document says, “Further, as some courts have noted, in cases of natural public interest, publicity and press coverage is inevitable, and in some cases, courts even deem parties to have an obligation to get the word out prior to incurring litigation expenses.
Wolf Creek’s amended complaint alleging an abuse of process also says, “the District also prepared and procured one or more false declarations sworn under penalty of perjury for an ulterior purpose other than resolving a legal dispute.”
No other details were given nor were there any references to which declarations were allegedly false.
VVWD’s response said, “The District has not, in any way made any effort to obtain false declarations from anyone. Apart from Wolf Creek’s wholly unsupported claim regarding improper media contact, the only other allegation Wolf Creek makes is that the District somehow ‘prepared and procured one or more false declarations.’ Multiple declarations have been obtained by both sides in this case.
“However, Wolf Creek’s amended complaint provides no facts or information as to what declaration Wolf Creek claims is false. Wolf Creek’s amended complaint also fails to provide any facts whatsoever regarding the alleged fraud or procurement of false declarations. Wolf Creek has provided none of the information or specificity which is required by a party alleging fraudulent conduct. The District has no proper notice of the nature of the claim.
“Nonetheless, the District and its counsel can state unequivocally that neither the District nor its counsel have done anything, made any effort, or knowingly received a declaration from any person in this case (or any other case for that matter) which the District or its counsel knows or suspects to be false or to contain false information.
“The fact that Wolf Creek would use allegations that the District or its staff somehow suborned perjury-with absolutely no support whatsoever-just to save a poorly pied and completely unsupported claim for abuse of process is offensive and, frankly, unethical.”
In summary, VVWD argued in its opposition document that “Certainly, the optics of this case are not good for Wolf Creek. A ‘bucket list’ golf course that charges hundreds of dollars per round and claims to bring golfers from around the world wants to continue receiving a ‘sweetheart’ rate for the District’s irrigation water into the indefinite future.
“Meanwhile, every other rate payer in the service area has had to pay more for water. It is perhaps understandable that Wolf Creek would want to keep this case under wraps and out of the public eye, but the fact that local media has taken interest, and that the District has complied with public record requests cannot, as a matter of law, constitute abuse of process. As such, the abuse of process claim should be dismissed with prejudice.”
A hearing with presiding Judge Timothy C. Williams regarding these actions is set for Sep. 25. Judge Williams has been appointed to preside over a recent lawsuit between the Las Vegas Review Journal and the Las Vegas Sun newspapers.