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Miami Condo Owners File Class Action Lawsuit [05/21/2006]
Buyers at the failed 1390 Brickell Bay condominium tower have filed a class-action lawsuit against developer Kenneth Baboun and his company BBB Group claiming fraud and breach of contract.

Baboun pulled the plug on the proposed 49-story condo near Miami's Brickell Avenue in February, saying hurricane-related delays and rising construction costs doomed the project. He returned buyers' deposits, which amounted to 20 percent of their purchase price earlier this year.

Over 50 buyers have sued in Miami-Dade Circuit Court alleging they were defrauded when Baboun announced groundbreaking in June 2005 but was far from ready to start construction. At groundbreaking buyers were required to put down the second 10 percent deposit on their units.

Baboun's lawyer, Lee Stapleton Milford of Baker & McKenzie in Miami, responded that the complaint is 'baseless,' calling it ``a shakedown attempt -- a way to get a condo windfall without purchasing a condo in today's very difficult market.'

The condo was to go up at 1390 Brickell Bay Dr. in Miami and was Baboun's only project in South Florida. Baboun, 25 years old and a Mexico native, started the project with no previous high-rise experience.

The plaintiffs seek not only interest on their deposit but the value of the condo if it had been built. Walroth-Sadurni said that if Baboun can be shown to have acted in bad faith the plaintiffs are due the benefit of their bargain, not merely a returned deposit plus interest.

'We think the money damages per each unit is $200,000 and up,' said an attorney for the condo buyers, noting that many buyers purchased their units in 2003 when prices -- even with a currently cooling market -- were much lower than today. Such a calculation in the 369-unit project would vault the total damages into the many millions.

Meanwhile, the suit gives a glimpse into who some of the buyers are for Miami condos. Thirty five of the 56 plaintiffs are from Colombia. The rest come from areas including Venezuela, Mexico, England, New York, North Carolina and Miami.

The lawsuit is open to anyone that purchased a Brickwell Bay Condominium located in Miami, Florida

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