Town Seeks Dismissal Of Skydive Cape Cod Lawsuit

By: Tim Wood

Topics: Airport , Skydiving

Tandem skydivers descend over Chatham in 2012.

CHATHAM – The town is seeking to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Skydive Cape Cod, Inc., seeking $100,000 in damage for the company's inability to operate out of Chatham Airport for the past several years.

Expressing concerns about safety, the town declined to renew Skydive Cape Cod's contract in 2013. The town was later ordered by the Federal Aviation Administration to issue a contract for skydive services at the airport, an allowed activity under grant assurances the town accepted as a condition of some $6 million in federal aviation grants provided to the airport over the years.

The situation became complicated when a group of residents, Citizens for a Safe Chatham Airport, sought an injunction in November 2015 to prevent the town from issuing a new skydiving contract. That action is scheduled to go to trial on Oct. 18.

Skydive Cape Cod filed suit against the town in January for breech of contract, seeking $100,000 in damages for lost business.

A motion to dismiss the suit filed in Barnstable Superior Court June 14 by Town Counsel Patrick Costello argues that no contract between the town and Skydive Cape Cod exists because the agreement was never fully executed. Under town's contract with airport manager Cape Cod Flying Circus, a sub-agreement – such as the one the company had with Skydive Cape Cod – must be signed by the town manager. She declined to sign the renewal, however, so no legally binding contract exists, Costello asserted.

Further, he wrote, the state's tort claims act protects the town from the claims being made by Skydive Cape Cod. The town also did not violate the company's due process rights since its previous contract expired Nov. 30, 2013, and it has failed to establish any legal interest in which it was deprived, Costello wrote.

Skydive has also failed to establish that the town's actions were an abuse of power that would “shock the conscience, or not sufficiently keyed to legitimate town interests,” Costello wrote.

“The town manager's decision not to renew [Skydive Cape Cod's] contract was a direct result of public concerns over the safety of the skydiving operation at the Chatham Airport,” the motion states. “Clearly, the exercise of her discretion to not execute the contract renewal was premised upon a legitimate town interest.”

The two court actions mean the town must argue both sides of the issue. In the suit by the neighborhood group, it must convince the court that skydiving is not a nuisance and should be – or in this case must be, by federal order – allowed, while in the suit by Skydive Cape Cod seeking damages, it must argue that there was a legitimate reason the contract was not renewed, that being public safety.