Residents tell of rats, broken air conditioning inside Ralston Towers

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This afternoon, the plaintiffs wrapped up their wrongful death case against the New Jersey-based owners of Ralston Towers. 

Attorneys for the estate of Charles Hart and his daughter Christina Thornton highlighted the deplorable living conditions inside the downtown Columbus 269-unit, low-income housing, as well as the lack of maintenance by the owners. 

Charles Hart, 62, died on July 6, 2017 in a Ralston room that was more than 98 degrees. His daughter, represented by Columbus attorney Charles Gower, is seeking punitive damages against the owners.  

The defense began presenting its case and will continue tomorrow morning. 

With former Ralston regional manager and defendant Yaakon Litvin on the witness stand, Gower wanted to make his point on how many work orders had been filed in the two months before Hart died. 

 The 108 work orders were strung together and stretched more than 100 feet from one corner of the courtroom to the other

The downtown low-income housing complex has been at the center of controversy since 2016.  

Longtime Ralston residents Phillip Hadley and Jennifer Glaubius told of a management team that didn’t respond to maintenance requests in a timely manner.  

Hadley says management laughed at Hart when he reported issues with his air conditioning.

“If you are paying for something, I think you ought to get it,” Hadley said. “If you are paying for air conditioning, they should furnish it. If you are paying for heat, the should furnish it. We should not have to worry if the water is going to be cut off, if the power is going to be cut off. There’s just one question I would like to ask. With everybody paying the rent, where is the money going?” 

Glaubius told the jury about rats that were in her apartment. She says they were drawn by backed up garbage.  

Under cross-examination by defense attorney James Budd of Atlanta, she said management said her cat food was what was attracting the rodents.  

Thornton testified about her at-times troubled relationship with her father. She told the jury of their issues because of his drug abuse and how they reconciled in 2014 after he had been clean for more than a decade.

She called him not long before he died.

“I just remember saying just trying to make sure he stayed cool,” she told the jury. “He said he was trying to stay cool. I didn’t know what that meant at the moment. I didn’t know his air wasn’t working. I just thought like any other human he was trying to stay cool.” 

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