Elk Creek Ranch Owner’s Association wins case

RBC | Elk Creek Ranch Owner’s Association prevailed in its lawsuit against developer William H. Wheeler for breaching his fiduciary duties while he was a director on its board. Elk Creek Ranch is a premier fly-fishing and hunting club outside Meeker, Colorado. An eight-person Rio Blanco county jury also found that Wheeler’s company Elk Creek Operations, LLC had breached its management contract when it failed to collect $872,013.19 in assessments from Wheeler’s development company Elk Creek Ranch Development Company. Wheeler was found personally liable for an additional $144,000. The jury rejected Wheeler’s defenses. The court had already found a breach of the governing declaration for the community. Association president Kevin McCoy said, “We sued to vindicate our members’ rights and are looking forward to a new and exciting future for our club.” Wheeler is no longer a member.

The jury also found a breach of a critical 60-year fishing lease the Elk Creek owners have with YZ Ranch, LLC, a Wheeler family ranching entity managed by Wheeler. The YZ Ranch was held in violation of the duty of good faith and fair dealing by improperly wielding closures of the year-round flyfishing lease under the guises of spawning and hunter safety. The nearby YZ Ranch on the South Fork of the White River offers some of the most spectacular trout and fly fishing in North America.

Elk Creek Ranch’s trial attorney Matthew C. Ferguson stated he “was happy that the jury recognized that YZ Ranch had weaponized the lease in response to the accounting claims and the verdict should send a strong message to Mr. Wheeler and his family to restore fly-fishing rights for this critical resource.” The Elk Creek owners will pursue attorneys’ fees and costs in post-trial filings.

The Matthew C. Ferguson Law Firm, P.C. is a civil litigation and trial firm based in Aspen, Colorado.

Timothy G. Atkinson practices complex civil litigation with Ireland Stapleton Pryor & Pascoe, P.C. in Denver, Colorado.