Mistrial called before trial in Lookout Mountain development case

Mistrial called before trial in Lookout Mountain development case

April 3rd, 2014 by Todd South in Local Regional News

Randy Baker

Duane Horton

A planned four-week trial set to start Wednesday in Hamilton County Circuit Court was declared a mistrial and reset for next week following multiple juror problems.

The trial involved a $35 million lawsuit pitting land development companies Canyon Ridge Resorts, Singing Sisters Falls and Scenic Land Co. against local private brokerage firm Sterne, Agee and Leach. The suit was filed in 2011 after a proposed $100 million Lookout Mountain development fell apart the previous year.

Canyon Ridge's Duane Horton alleges in court documents that his then-partner Randy Baker secretly conspired with Sterne Agee to sabotage the project and put in place their own development at the same site with the same architects while Sterne Agee was working as Canyon Ridge's investment brokers.

Horton claims that the alleged actions of Baker and the investment firm cost the developers as much as $35 million in damages.

Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge Neil Thomas III declared a mistrial Wednesday morning after spending Tuesday working through a pool of 96 jurors. Twenty-six of those called said they could serve the length of the trial without hardship.

After attorney challenges limited the pool to 12 there were no further alternates, triggering the mistrial.

Thomas and the attorneys will begin again with new jury panels on April 8 and likely begin the trial the following day, according to court officials.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP