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Berman Sues Ortega Over Closed Planet FitnessLock Icon

2 min read

The sale of a Planet Fitness in Joplin, Missouri, has resulted in a lawsuit filed in Fayetteville by a California investor against a Springdale man who is originally from Miami. (We are pretty sure that sentence conforms to social distancing rules.)

The lawsuit, as befitting this day and age, has COVID-19 fingerprints on it.

Joseph Berman of Encino alleged that Buck Ortega, who is a Planet Fitness franchisee in northwest Arkansas, committed fraud and breach of contract in the $3.2 million sale of a Planet Fitness in Joplin. Ortega is not the Joplin franchisee but owned the property where the center is located.

If Berman’s name sounds familiar, it may be because he has been active in the northwest Arkansas real estate market the past couple of years. In fact, he spent $1.2 million on a Fayetteville retail center this month.

Berman, in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Washington County Circuit Court by Kael Bowling of Friday Eldredge & Clark in Fayetteville, said Ortega failed to tell him that the Joplin Planet Fitness franchisee had written Ortega one week before the sale was finalized to say the fitness center was shutting down because of the pandemic and would stop paying rent beginning April 1. Berman’s lawsuit alleges that Ortega should have informed the buyer because Berman was purchasing the building chiefly because Planet Fitness was the tenant.

The sale was finalized March 30.

The monthly rent was reported in the filings as $21,786.75. Berman said the loss of rent could run to more than $87,000 if the Planet Fitness remains closed as long as it said it might in the letter to Ortega

Ortega’s agent, attorney Joseph Reece of RMP in Springdale, did not return a message. The Joplin franchise is owned by Pat Mackey of Excel Fitness BEB X LLC.

Ortega is a former football player for the University of Miami who played 13 games as a tight end in the NFL, catching one pass for 3 yards for the New Orleans Saints in 2008.

Berman is asking for damages in the amount of the rent that won’t be paid and for any decline in property value, as well as fees and other damages.

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