The longest running civil case in Hamilton County history concluded Monday with Circuit Court Judge J.B. Bennett awarding an extra $4.5 million in pre-judgment interest to the developers of Canyon Ridge, who had already reached an agreement with a Birmingham, Ala.,-based financial firm to receive millions of dollars in a negotiated settlement following a jury judgment against the financiers.
Bennett dismissed the lawsuit, which developer Duane Horton brought against Sterne, Agee & Leach Inc. and one of the firm's former employees, Edmund Wall, over a dispute about financing for a Lookout Mountain development in northwest Georgia.
Last month, a Hamilton County Circuit Court jury awarded Horton nearly $20.6 million in compensatory damages and $11.5 million in punitive damages to Horton and the court ordered an additional $4,470,628 in prejudgment interest raising the total award to more than $36.5 million. A mediator, John Blankenship, approved a settlement of the case in June 30, although neither side has disclosed the exact amount that Sterne Agee will pay Horton.
The original claim was filed in September 2011. The trial began on April 21, 2015 and lasted six weeks, making it the longest civil trial in Hamilton County's history.
Horton, president of Scenic Land investors, was trying to develop a planned hotel and convention center next to the Canyon Ridge golf course in Walker County, Ga., but he claims the plan was thwarted by Wall and Sterne and Agree who worked for another rival development. Neither plan was ever developed at Canyon Ridge.
Robert Manley of national trial firm McKool Smith, PC, filed the case.
"My team, including the numerous professionals on the development team, Scenic Land investors, and I are grateful forMcKool Smith's commitment to the case," Horton said in a statement today. "The attorneys have been a pleasure to work with over the past four years, and their professionalism and legal expertise is second-to-none. Our entire community has benefited from their service."
Mr. Horton also applauded the jury's dedication to the trial and the strong showing of support from the community.
"The jury spent over six weeks actively listening to a very complicated and detailed case," he said. "We are all very pleased with the outcome of this case and hope it will prevent others from engaging in such unfair business practices."
Horton said he will focus now on the continued development of Brow Wood on Lookout Mountain, as well as the proposed Hillocks Farm project in Hixson.