Ralston lawyers ask for judge to set aside verdict in $125 million wrongful death suit

Local News

Attorneys for Ralston Towers are moving to have a record Muscogee County civil verdict thrown out. 

Earlier this month, a State Court jury awarded the daughter of a Columbus man who died inside the downtown low-income apartment building $125 million dollars in a wrongful death lawsuit. 

A month after a Muscogee County State Court jury hit the New Jersey-based owners of Ralston Towers with the record verdict, the case is moving to the next stage. 

Judge Andy Prather has granted a motion from attorneys representing the estate of Charles Hart to make PF Holdings Inc. post a $25 million security bond if they appeal the judgment. 

That bond would have to be put in place 16 days after an appeal is filed. An attorney for PF Holdings declined to comment this week, but they recently a motion asking Prather to overturn the verdict on more than a dozen grounds. 

Attorney Charles Gower, who represents Hart’s estate, says there is a reason for the request for a large bond.

“That’s the highest that you can get under Georgia law, no matter what the company is worth,” Gower said. “We asked for that. The court granted it. But the court also said we could ask for a higher bond if the circumstances warrant it.” 

Lawyers for PF Holdings and its subsidiaries are asking Prather to set aside the verdict for 15 reasons including that it is contrary to law, and alleged jury misconduct. 

The verdict is tainted by passion and prejudice flowing from improper remarks and other tactics of plaintiff’s counsel, defense attorneys claim.

Attorney James Budd represented PF Holdings during the trial. Laurie Webb Daniel of Holland & Knight LLP is now the lead appellate attorney for PF Holdings and its insurance carrier, Philadelphia Insurance Company.

 Daniel had no comment when reached by News 3 earlier this week.

The reasons in the defense’s request to set aside the verdict include:

  • The verdict is contrary to law; 
  • The verdict is contrary to the evidence; 
  • The verdict is strongly against the weight of the evidence; 
  • The verdict is tainted by juror misconduct. 

That is the first step in the appeal process. 

Hart died in a Ralston room that was more than 98 degrees two years ago. The jury said that the Ralston’s actions contributed to his death.  

The next step is for the trial transcript to be complete and for Prather to set a hearing date on the defense motion to set aside the verdict. 

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