CAMDENTON, Mo. (BP)–Businessman Bill Jester has filed a counterclaim against the Missouri Baptist Convention, claiming lost profits of $10 million on his acquisition of 943 acres of land formerly owned by the convention and its Windermere Baptist Conference Center. The suit also seeks an unspecified amount for “punitive damages” for “malicious and outrageous conduct.”
The suit, filed Camden County Circuit Court March 25, follows a summary judgment by a Cole County judge on March 4 dismissing a convention lawsuit challenging Windermere trustee action to remove the conference center from convention oversight. The convention is appealing the summary judgment, MBC legal counsel Michael Whitehead said.
Whitehead explained that the Cole County case is the principal case which has been pending since 2002 against five breakaway corporations formerly controlled by the MBC, including Windermere. The convention filed a related case in Camden County in 2006, naming several creditors who claimed some interest in the Windermere property. The Camden County action sought to delay any further development of the land while the Cole County matter is being resolved.
“Mr. Jester’s lawyers have filed the Cole County order with the court in Camden County, and have done it with some dramatic flair,” Whitehead told The Pathway, the convention’s newsjournal. “The flair, however, is frivolous. We believe the claims of ‘tortuous interference with business expectancy,’ etc., are without legal merit. We will continue to ask the Camden County court to take no action until the Cole County order can be appealed. We are confident in our position before the court of appeals, and confident that this counterclaim will ultimately be deemed frivolous by the Camden County court.”
Whitehead also noted that the convention has liability insurance for such claims and that he will notify the carrier and request coverage for attorneys fees and any other costs of responding to the counterclaim.
Meanwhile, a public hearing to rezone the approximately 1,000 acres at Windermere from a commercial park to low-density residential has been scheduled for April 16 at the Camden County courthouse. Whitehead said the MBC legal team will monitor the proceedings.
Reported by the staff of The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.