ESCANABA - A court decision is pending on a civil suit involving a Bark River homeowner and his tenants who have countersued him. The parties met during a bench trial in Delta County District Court on Tuesday.
Jason Bradley Ives is suing Gladstone residents James and Kristin Curtice for alleged damages to a home he owned in Bark River. The couple is countersuing Ives for not refunding them a portion of a $10,000 down payment as promised in an agreement to purchase the property.
The couple had entered into a contract on Sept. 28, 2010 to buy the home for a total of $65,000. After living there for 10 months, they decided not to purchase it because Ives failed to correct major defects with the house as promised, according to the countersuit.
The Curtices moved out on Aug. 1, 2011. Their purchase agreement with Ives stated they would be charged rent at a rate of $500 a month if they decided not to buy the home.
That same day the family moved out, 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 civil complaint against the Curtices for $3,000 worth of damages in the home. A month later, the Curtices filed their counter-complaint requesting the $5,000. This past January, both cases were removed from small claims court to trial court.
On Feb. 2, Ives amended his complaint, increasing the claim amount to $5,000-$25,000 worth of damages. In May, the court ordered Ives to place in escrow the $5,000 balance in question.
On Sept. 25 this year, testimony was presented before Judge Glenn Pearson from Ives, the Curtices, and other witnesses. Kristin Curtice testified they had cleaned the place before moving out and Ives approved of the cleanliness of the house.
The bench trial resumed Tuesday in circuit court with testimony from Ives, James Curtice, and Kristin Curtice's parents.
Following closing arguments by Ives' attorney Elizabeth LaCosse and the Curtices' lawyer Trent Stupak, the judge said he will review the testimony and present a written decision at a later date. Evidence includes the original and amended purchase agreements and photographs of the home taken after someone else moved into the house after the Curtices left.
Specific damages claimed by Ives include: pet stains on the carpet and sub-flooring; scratches on the floor caused by pets; a six-inch hole in the wall for a pellet stove; smoke damage; 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.
During cross-examination on Tuesday, Ives testified there were no provisions in the purchase agreement for a security deposit or liquidated damages.
LaCosse told the judge in her closing argument that just because there's no written lease regarding tenant damage, does not mean the Curtices are not responsible for the damages, estimated by Ives at $5,900.
Stupak said in his closing argument the purchase agreement did not include assessments for damages and did not include anything about "the wear and tear" from people or pets.
Stupak also commented that Ives filed the suit against the Curtices before the couple sued him for the $5,000 due them.
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 two separate parties on the same home.
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 a couple who paid a $30,000 down payment on Ives' residence and also gave Ives $7,000 to build a garage on the property.
In a civil case filed in circuit court, Ives' wife, Jennifer Ives, was ordered in September to pay the couple $15,000 to be applied towards the $37,000 restitution Jason Ives was ordered to pay in the criminal case.
Jason Ives is also being prosecuted in Menominee County on alleged scams involving a home construction and a remodeling job. A motions hearing scheduled for Dec. 6 was taken off the court docket by the judge, who is expected to issue a written ruling on the motions later this month. The trial is scheduled for Feb. 11.
In addition, a state ruling is pending against Ives on alleged building and occupational code violations on a home he constructed in Rapid River.