Beaufort News

Federal judge dismisses drawn-out Dataw lawsuit

A federal judge dismissed an antitrust lawsuit filed three years ago against Dataw Island's club and owners association.

U.S. District Court Judge C. Weston Houck ruled Sept. 30 to dismiss the suit, which alleged breaches of fiduciary duties, antitrust violations and other misconduct by two Dataw Island boards and some of their members, according to court records. The suit was filed in 2007 by former Dataw Island residents Robert Brandriff and Rick Davenport against the Dataw Island Club and Dataw Island Owners Association.

"We are obviously very pleased with the federal ruling made by Judge Houck," Ted Bartlett, general manager and chief operating officer of Dataw Island Club, said in a news release Thursday. "We are encouraged to get this matter behind us and to move forward to the benefit of the entire Dataw Island community."

The former residents can appeal the decision in a state court but have not done so yet, the release said.

The club and owners association are now seeking attorney fees, which were more than $1.3 million, and other costs of more than $100,000 from the former residents, according to court filings.

"This has been a hotly contested litigated lawsuit, involving claims with little substance but an extremely high amount in controversy," reads the motion for sanctions against the former residents. The motion says there was "no legal basis for their antitrust claims."

Brandriff and Davenport had sought class-action status for their suit. In it, the plaintiffs alleged, among other things, that club policies -- such as imposing assessments on owners association members to be used for the club -- benefited its members at the expense of property owners. It also claimed a violation of antitrust laws because club membership and assessments were a condition of property ownership, according to court records.

Dataw Island is an 870-acre gated community on St. Helena Island.