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DALLAS-A breach-of-contract lawsuit is far from over despite a $6-million award that could spike to $11 million with legal fees and pre-judgment interest, says the defense team for Dallas-based Accor Economy Lodging, which inherited the case in its 1999 buyout of Red Roof Inns.

The defendant’s legal team will file a motion to set aside the award and then appeal if the first tact fails, David Noteware of Thompson & Knight in Dallas, tells GlobeSt.com about a highly watched contest between Accor and Murat Holdings LLC of Boca Raton, FL over a now-razed hotel that was once the place to stay in Baton Rouge, LA. The 68th Judicial District Court in Dallas County will weigh the motion’s merits within 30 days when it convenes to set the final award.

The plaintiff claims the 262-room Prince Murat Hotel would have been a success at 1480 Nicholson Dr., had the Red Roof Inn franchise materialized under the $45,000 buy-in inked in December 1998 and $1.6-million renovation. John W. Bickel II, partner in Bickel & Brewer of Dallas, says Columbus, OH-based Red Roof Inns and parent Accor Economy Lodging withheld final approval on the flag because they had four competing hotels in the same market: one Red Roof Inn and three Motel 6 properties.

Bickel says Red Roof Inn’s franchise operations director cleared the flag to rise and then recanted the approval in the wake of the August 1999 buyout by Accor. As a result, Bickel contends in the lawsuit that “the hotel conglomerate allegedly imposed strict guidelines upon the Prince Murat Hotel, causing the business entity to forgo millions of dollars in operating profits due to a delayed opening.”

The Dallas-fought case was adjudicated under Ohio law, as dictated by the franchise agreement. And that, Bickel says, is what opened the door for the favorable decision in a five-week trial for a four-year-old case. “Under Ohio law, there is an obligation to engage in good faith,” he says of contract language found primarily in the Northeast.

The view from the other side contends Accor followed the agreement. “We feel the contract is clear with regard to our rights and obligations and we fulfilled those,” Noteware stresses, adding the contract stipulated any changes were to be signed by both parties.

The motion, which has yet to be filed, will ask the judge to “enter a verdict at trial court level” that would erase the largest judgment against Accor Economy Lodging in its five-year history. Noteware says he’s “hopeful” that the motion will end the legal battle, but he’s also preparing to appeal if necessary. Noteware and Jenkins & Gilchrist’s John Solich and Keith Klein, both in the Los Angeles office, represent Accor.

Bickel and partner Joyce M. Hellstern, along with the firm’s associate Susan Eliott and consultant Cedric Fulsom, represent Murat Holdings, which ended up raising a Ramada flag on the Prince Murat Hotel until it went dark in May 2002. Bickel says the hotel, with an extended stay component, closed due to brand differences with regard to the reservation support system. Murat, keeping a small stake for itself, sold the hotel property to an Atlanta developer to build student condos on the tract. The 1968-constructed hotel was razed in May 2003, triggering redevelopment of an urban infill site on the north side of the Louisiana State University campus near the Downtown.

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