Stuart Sobel's work since 2008 on behalf of the estate of the late interior designer James Wallace Tutt III was chronicled in an article in yesterday's Miami Herald and another report in today's Daily Business Review. Stuart prevailed before the Third District Court of Appeal in securing a judgment in favor of the estate in a case involving the famed designer's $2.9 million sale of the one-acre Bahamian island Caribe Cay. Tutt was the interior designer for Gianni Versace's South Beach mansion as well as a mansion owned by Cher, and he also became famous as the owner of the boutique Rock House hotel on Harbour Island near Eleuthera in the Bahamas where past guests have included Elle Macpherson, Naomi Campbell, Diane von Furstenberg, Barry Diller and Uma Thurman.
As a result of the ruling, creditors seeking title to the private island that Tutt had sold to a Coral Gables developer facing bank fraud charges will be required to await the ruling of a Bahamian court that is presiding over the matter.
"It's been hundreds of thousands of dollars of legal fees to get to this point, and it never should have happened," Stuart was quoted in the Daily Business Review article.
Tutt negotiated the sale of Caribe Cay to developer Guy Mitchell in 2006 but never signed a contract. Mitchell then relocated to the island, began making payments to Tutt and eventually paid all but $7,000 of the purchase price but did not want to take formal title. Tutt later learned Mitchell wanted Punto Larga Ltd. to be named as purchaser.
One creditor had obtained a $52.4 million judgment in New York against Mitchell and others over a failed hotel deal, and a second company won a $4.2 million stipulated judgment against Mitchell and others in Miami-Dade County.
These creditors served Tutt with a writ of garnishment to seize Mitchell's assets, and Punto Larga sued Tutt in the Bahamas to demand that he transfer title to Caribe Cay to the company.
"Sobel said he kept telling the others to take their complaints to the Bahamas, but they insisted on pursuing garnishment in the United States," reads the Daily Business Review article. "That's what I told these guys five years ago: Come down to the Bahamas. We don't care who gets the property," Stuart is quoted.
Initially, the Miami-Dade Circuit Court issued summary judgment in favor of Tutt, and the Third DCA reviewed the decision and sent the case back because Tutt had not asked for summary judgment and the hotel creditor had not been notified.
Tutt died of heart problems in June 2010, and in November 2010, his estate was sued by one of the Mitchell creditors for specific performance, unjust enrichment and breach of contract. The Miami-Dade Circuit Court last March granted summary judgment against the creditor and dismissed its complaint, and the decision was now affirmed by the appellate panel.
In the article from the business pages of Thursday's Miami Herald, Stuart concludes: "We're looking forward to delivering the deed to whichever entity the Bahamian court decides is entitled. As the court wrote, while the facts were complex and convoluted, the issues were really simple and always have been."