A lawsuit filed by the owner of the former Airport Mobil Station against the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission withstood a motion to dismiss Friday in Barnstable Superior Court. The case dates from 2017, when the airport did not renew a site lease with Airport Fuel Services (AFS) following a bid process, and instead awarded the lease to Depot Corner. Attorneys for AFS have argued the bid process was tainted, and are seeking $14.4 million in damages for a deal to sell the gas station they say was upended by the bid loss. Attorneys for the Airport Commission maintain the case is without merit, and describe the suit as a bitter parting shot by AFS owner Michael Rotondo, after losing out to Depot Corner owner Louis Paciello.
Before Judge Robert Rufo, Airport Commission attorneys David Mackey and Christina Marshall moved to dismiss the case on the grounds discovery had unearthed evidence of spoliation, a legal term for the destruction of evidence. They asserted AFS had eliminated business emails, and in doing so had kept potentially key evidence out of the hands of the defense. Attorney Marilyn Vukota, who represented Depot Corner, also spoke in support of this assertion. AFS attorneys Michael Mahoney and Susan Grondine did not deny their client deleted emails, but argued it was not done deceitfully, but innocently, by folks who aren’t very tech-savvy.
Judge Rufo ruled spoliation did occur, but characterized it as negligent and not intentional, and denied the motion to dismiss.
A date for a summary judgment hearing was penciled in for June, with a possible trial date in October if the case proceeds past summary judgment.