On March 9, 2023, the Georgia Court of Appeals remanded to the Superior Court of DeKalb County the unresolved aspects of a tumultuous case that had originally resulted in a more than $6 million verdict against the City of Brookhaven, its Mayor and City Manager. The Court of Appeals, however, reversed and remanded the verdict, resulting in remittitur of the case back to the trial court.
A developer The Ardent Companies, LLC brought suit against the City of Brookhaven and city officials, including the Mayor and City Manager, alleging that the city and its officials treated Ardent unfairly when Ardent sought to develop townhomes within the city. Ultimately a jury agreed, finding that the city defendants interfered with the project to Ardent’s detriment. The jury awarded $5.8 million against Brookhaven and $200,000 against both the Mayor and City Manager each, individually, for their alleged wrongdoing.
The Brookhaven defendants appealed, securing a favorable outcome at the Court of Appeals, which held that Ardent had failed to prove an applicable waiver of sovereign immunity, such that Brookhaven could be sued in the first place. In Georgia, municipalities are afforded sovereign immunity which shields them from suit, unless a statutory waiver of the immunity applies.
Ardent argued that sovereign immunity was waived in this case because Brookhaven had purchased liability coverage, but, citing an earlier Georgia Supreme Court case, the Court of Appeals disagreed with Ardent’s position, reversing the judgment against Brookhaven. The court also held that certain evidence was improperly admitted and instructed the lower court to reconsider the admissibility of that evidence, which might have led to the judgments against the Mayor and City Manager.
The Superior Court of DeKalb County has not yet initiated further proceedings in this matter in light of the Court of Appeals opinion and remittitur.
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