Bozeman Museum Awarded $2.3M in Donation Lawsuit

May 14, 2012

A jury awarded $2.3 million to the Museum of the Rockies Inc. in a lawsuit against a Bozeman-area developer who failed to pay a promised endowment and research gift after using the museum and paleontologist Jack Horner in promotional materials for a proposed upscale housing development.

The jury on Thursday found Wade Dokken’s company, Ameya Preserve, liable for negligent misrepresentation, fraud and constructive fraud, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.

“We’re devastated, obviously,” Dokken told The Associated Press on Friday. He said the development planned to dedicate $30 million to $40 million to charity, including the Museum of the Rockies.

“The idea of being sued by a charity for a business failure – it’s astounding to me,” Dokken said.

He said his attorney will ask the judge to set aside the verdict, and if that fails, they will appeal.

Ameya Preserve was a proposed eco-friendly community south of Livingston. Museum officials said under a 2007 contract between the preserve and the nonprofit corporation that runs the museum, the preserve was to give the museum a $2 million endowment over five years.

That was in exchange for using the museum and “Jurassic Park” consultant Horner in marketing materials and renaming Horner’s position at the museum to the Ameya Preserve Curator of Paleontology. The development’s marketing also said buyers would be able to go on dinosaur digs on neighboring lands with Horner.

Museum attorney Devlan Geddes told the AP on Friday that Dokken also spoke at museum events and at one, handed out brochures and played an Ameya Preserve promotional DVD that included Horner.

However, the development failed, and in April 2009, Dokken said he couldn’t make the donation.

“The $2 million was if success occurred,” with the development, Dokken said Friday.

The museum argued that Ameya Preserve signed a contract to make the donation, and also agreed to pay more than $1.2 million over 15 years for field work.

“No reasonable person would say that the effort that (the museum) put in was valued at $2 million,” Dokken said.

Dokken’s attorney, David Charles, said it was the museum that sought out Dokken as a potential donor to kick off a capital campaign.

Charles argued Horner didn’t use his Ameya Preserve title in a book, nor did he identify himself with the title when talking to the press. Charles argued that Horner’s sporadic use of the title breached the contract prior to Dokken’s failure to pay.

Horner testified last week that when he was writing a book in 2008, he included the title. “But by 2009, it was very clear that I wasn’t going to be the Ameya Preserve curator anymore, so I took it off,” Horner said.

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