ESCANABA - A civil case involving a Bark River property owner suing tenants for alleged damages to his home will continue in December. The bench trial, which began last spring, resumed Tuesday in Delta County District Court.
Last year, Jason Bradley Ives filed a lawsuit against Gladstone residents James and Kristin Curtice for alleged damages to a home he owned in Bark River. The couple later filed a countersuit alleging Ives never refunded them a portion of a down payment as promised.
Each took the stand during Tuesday's bench trial, answering questions from Ives' attorney Elizabeth LaCosse and the Curtices' lawyer Trent Stupak. The purchase agreement between the two parties and photographs of the home were presented as evidence.
On Sept. 28, 2010, the Curtices paid Ives a $10,000 down payment on a home Ives owned on C Road. They intended to purchase the property within a year for a total of $65,000. If the couple decided not to buy, the purchase agreement stated they would be refunded the deposit minus $500 for each month they lived there.
After 10 months, the couple moved out on Aug. 1, 2011 because Ives failed to correct major defects with the house, according to a countersuit filed by the Curtices.
That same day, Ives amended the sales contract, agreeing to refund the couple $5,000 by Aug. 12, 2011, and also nullifying the purchase agreement between the two parties.
On Aug. 18, 2011, Ives filed a complaint in small claims court against the Curtices for $3,000 worth of damages in the home. One month later, the Curtices filed their counterclaim against Ives, requesting he refund the $5,000 balance due on their $10,000 down payment minus 10 months of rent.
In January, both cases were removed from small claims court to trial court. In May, Ives was ordered by the court to place the $5,000 in escrow which he did, according to a court official.
Earlier this year, on Feb. 2, 2012, Ives amended his complaint, increasing the claim amount; he identified $5,000 to $25,000 worth of damages he said occurred while the Curtices lived in his home.
Specific damages claimed by Ives included pet stains on the carpet and sub-flooring and scratches on the floor caused by pets. He also listed a six-inch hole in the wall due to the installation of a pellet stove which also caused smoke damage. He said there was a ripped screen, a broken window spring, a missing shower head, a chipped and dented sink, a broken toilet handle, damaged drywall, and a large oil stain in the garage.
Kristin Curtice testified Tuesday that Ives' purchase agreement on the house did not include a security deposit for damages.
She also said she had cleaned the house before moving out and Ives approved of the cleanliness of the house. Kristin Curtice added, when she offered to do any painting inside, Ives said he would take care of it because he is a contractor. Ives also told her he would take care of the hole in the wall where the pellet stove chimney was, she testified.
Two days after they moved out, when they went to pick up a couple belongings, someone else had already moved into the house which was painted and undergoing remodeling inside, said Kristin Curtice who photographed the interior.
James Curtice testified they had washed the soot off the house and Ives said it was good. He also testified Ives promised to but never shingled the roof, fixed the playhouse, installed drywall and shelving in the garage, or exchange the water tank. The roof also heavily leaked rain inside the walls of the home, James Curtice added.
When LaCosse asked James Curtice why he never got a mortgage on the home, he replied, "I didn't want the house."
Ives testified that when he checked the house a week after the Curtices moved out, he saw the damages including stains on the carpeting which smelled like pet urine. After filing the lawsuit against the couple, he found additional damages, he said.
Two other witnesses took the stand Tuesday. Ives' father, Lawrence Bruce Ives, testified on the condition of the home he used to own and turned over to his son. Daniel Sandahl also testified; he had made a down payment on the same home as the Curtices.
In July, Ives was sentenced to six months in jail on two counts of larceny by conversion $1,000 to $20,000 for not refunding down payments made by Sandahl and another party, Heather and Andrew Thomas, at the same time on the same home on C Road.
In August, Ives was sentenced to eight months in jail on one count of larceny by conversion $1,000 to $20,000 for embezzling $7,000 from Nancy and Mike Kossow. The couple had paid Ives a $30,000 down payment on his residence and also gave him $7,000 to build a garage on the same property.
In a civil case filed in circuit court, Ives' wife, Jennifer Ives, was ordered earlier this month to pay the Kossows $15,000. Her payments will be applied toward the $37,000 restitution the court ordered Jason Ives to pay in the criminal case.
According to circuit court records, Jennifer Ives was "entitled to make" monthly payments of $200 or more a month beginning Oct. 1, 2012 for the first 24 months. The stipulations also stated: "Upon completion of the first 24-month period, or in the event of failure to make a monthly payment by the end of the (10-day) grace period, the plaintiffs (the Kossows) will thereafter be able to employ any means of collection afforded by law."
Jason Ives is currently being prosecuted in Menominee County on alleged home remodeling scams. In addition, a final ruling is pending on alleged building and occupational code violations on a home he partially constructed in Rapid River.
Tuesday's bench trial will be continued on Dec. 11 in district court. In a bench trial, Judge Glenn Pearson will make a ruling on a case based on the evidence presented.