Cottages of Boone requests trial location change

Chelsey Fisher

Three Appalachian State University students, who are plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against the companies that own The Cottages of Boone, are currently fighting a possible change to the trial location to the U.S. District Court in Statesville.

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After many delays from a harsh winter and a wet summer, construction is yet to be completed at parts of The Cottages of Boone. Plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against the owners of The Cottages are fighting a request for the lawsuit to move into the federal court system. Photo by Paul Heckert | The Appalachian

The request was made by the defendants, Capstone Collegiate Communities Boone and Capstone Properties.

The original charges, filed by Capua Law Firm on behalf of senior political science major Jonathan Schneider, junior nursing major Deanna Reary and freshman management major Langdon Clay, were filed in state court, meaning the trial would be held in Boone, said Paul Capua, the students’ attorney.

But Brown Law Firm, a Raleigh-based firm representing Capstone Collegiate Communities Boone and Capstone Properties, the companies that own The Cottages of Boone, filed a motion asking for the case to be moved to the U.S. District Court on Oct. 21, 2013.

“Defendant CCC-Boone, LLC is a limited liability company organized and existing under the laws of the State of Delaware with its principle [sic] place of business in the State of New York,” according to the motion.

Capstone Properties is also organized and exists in Alabama. Because the defending companies are not organized in the same state as the plaintiffs, and the amount in controversy is more than $75,000, the U.S. District Court has original jurisdiction, according to the petition.

But Capua said that the amount the plaintiffs asked for in the claim does not equal $75,000.

Capua said because CCC-Boone mostly operates in Boone, under the “nerve center test” upheld by the Supreme Court that examines where a company does most of its operations, there is no basis for it to move to a district court.

Capua Law Firm filed a motion to move the case back to the state level Nov. 20, 2013.

The original suit was filed Sept. 20, 2013 with four counts against the companies in charge of The Cottages. These counts include unlawful fees, rent abatement, North Carolina debt collection violations and unfair and deceptive trade practices, according to an article published Oct. 1, 2013 in The Appalachian.

Schneider, Reary and Clay decided to file the lawsuit after they felt the defendants “exploited their inexperience in collecting certain fees from them they should not have been asked to pay,” Capua said in a Sept. 30, 2013 email.

There is no set trial for the case, and no more students have added their names to the class action lawsuit, Capua said.

While there have been procedural battles, Capua is still hopeful regarding the case, he said in an interview.

“Frankly, I think that the case has been progressing well,” he said. “And while we’d hoped we wouldn’t get bogged down with proceeding issues, that’s the nature of a case like this.”

Jen Wilson, a spokeswoman for The Cottages, said in an email that The Cottages does not feel it is appropriate to comment on the case because it is still pending.

“However, at the appropriate time we welcome the opportunity to tell our side of the story and look forward to responding in court,” Wilson said in the email.

Story: Chelsey Fisher, Chief Copy Editor

Photo: Paul Heckert, Photo Editor