Court of Appeals of Virginia Confirms Dismissal of Norfolk Casino Lawsuit Filed By Waterside Developer

The city of Norfolk has officially won a court case against a developer who argued it should’ve had the 1st right to construct a casino in the city and asked for indemnification for the city’s plans for the casino with the Pamunkey Indian Tribe.

Dismissal of the lawsuit:

During the previous week, the Virginia Court of Appeals confirmed the ruling brought by the lower court that deposed a $100 million legal action filed by the Waterside District developer Cordish Companies against C taya365 ity Attorney Bernard Pishko, the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority and Norfolk.

Baltimore-based developer, Cordish Companies, redeveloped the Waterside back in 2013. However, when leaders of Norfolk started talking about developing a casino in the city, LLC Norfolk District Associates claimed that it should’ve had the sole right to construct and manage one under its Waterside Development lease and contract.

Relatedly, five years ago, in 2019, Norfolk officially validated a land contract with the Pamunkey Indian Tribe that paved the way for the construction of the HeadWaters Resort and Casino adjacent to Harbor Park and located less than a mile from Waterside. These plans didn’t stop.

The lawsuit:

The aforementioned Norfolk District Associates filed legal action three years ago, back in 2021, claiming that the City of Norfolk violated its agreement and was actively trying to shut out Waterside from being the location for the casino. Additionally, at the heart of the case were definitions of a lease contract from 2013 signed by Waterside developers and the leaders of the city regarding the possible backup and the rights of the development to be the location of the casino.

The legal action was deposed two years ago, in 2022, by a Richmond Circuit Court judge. However, Cordish and its attorneys launched an appeal.

On a related note, in the verdict that consists of 12 pages handed down on February 27, the Virginia Court of Appeals upheld the ruling by the lower court, discovering that the written contract regarding Waterside “does not place an obligation on the City and NRHA to use NDA to develop a casino.”

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In this regard, Judge Richard Y. AtLee wrote in the name of the 3-judge panel: “All of NDA’s assignments of error, and the underlying claims, turn on the premise that the City and NRHA breached enforceable contractual obligations owed to NDA under the lease agreement. Because we find that section 10.2.1 was an unenforceable agreement to agree and a casino was not a permitted use under the terms of the agreement, we find that the circuit court did not err in sustaining the demurrers.”

However, Cordish didn’t provide a response when asked for a comment. Also, Pishko commented in a statement, according to The Virginian-Pilot: “We are pleased to have the Court confirm that Cordish and [John] Lynch sued the city, city attorney and NRHA without a basis.”

Furthermore, the first hearing on the appeal was held during July by Judges James W. Haley Jr., Doris Henderson Causey and AtLee. The verdict reveal occurred after one more set of oral arguments in December of 2023.

This second round was set up by the attorneys following the event when 1 of the judges who officially heard the 1st appeal had to withdraw. The main reason for this was a conflict of interest.

As for the judges who also heard the latest set of oral arguments in the last month of 2023 and rendered judgement were Dominique A. Callins, Haley and AtLee, based on information from the Court’s Documents, showing that Causey was the judge to withdraw. Court of Appeals staff declined requests to speak with Causey regarding the reason for the withdrawal.