Following the Georgia Court of Appeals’ recent reversal of the $6 million verdict against the City of Brookhaven, its Mayor, and City Manager earlier this year as described in this blog post, the trial court judge recently ordered a new trial of the case.
As previously explained, 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 in 2017. Ultimately a jury agreed, finding that the city defendants interfered with the project to Ardent’s detriment. The jury awarded more than $6 million against Brookhaven and $200,000 against both the Mayor and City Manager each, individually, for their alleged wrongdoing.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals 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.
In ordering a new trial, the DeKalb County Superior Court judge ruled that certain prior acts of the City should not have been admitted at the trial because such prior acts could have confused the jury and caused unfair prejudice and confusion to the City.
Firm partner Jeremy Berry, who serves as City Attorney for Brookhaven, was quoted in response to the new trial order as saying, “Judge Barrie’s ruling is another positive step towards the resolution of this unfounded lawsuit. A private developer cannot force a city to abandon property for the developer’s financial gain.”
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