But Shubin said Florida courts have never allowed a civil conspiracy claim like the one filed by the Vizcayans. He argued that the case should be dismissed because the Vizcayans could not show that the developers owed any duties to the Vizcayans that were broken.
“I am so glad to have our clients cleansed of the stigma from these allegations,” Shubin said.
To make their case, the Vizcayans’ lawyers pieced together the backroom maneuvering before and after the city commission voted to approve the condo project in April 2007.
They displayed e-mails from a Related vice president who said he had confirmed that three commissioners would approve the project — three months before the final vote. They also discovered that the developers had offered $8 million to two Coconut Grove neighborhood groups, Bay Heights and Natoma Manors, in secret agreements to win their approval for the project.
The Vizcayans also argued that the developers hired friends of Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones as consultants in an effort to win her support, and also hired a City Hall staffer to help get the project approved.
After the Vizcayans publicly opposed the project, the developers deployed a lobbyist to Miami-Dade County Hall in an effort to cut off funding for the organization’s legal fight against the project, Darmody said. The Vizcayans are a private nonprofit with a fundraising contract with the museum, which is owned by the county and governed by a board of trustees.
Utrera said the jury believed this was more than enough evidence of wrongdoing by the developers.
“We’re very confused,” Utrera said of the judge’s ruling. “We were all just taken aback by it.”