Brookhaven wins appeal in multi-million-dollar verdict
City of Brookhaven officials announced on March 3 that the city successfully appealed a verdict in the Georgia Court of Appeals with the Appellate Court finding that the plaintiffs failed to prove essential elements of their claims against the city.
The appeal was based on a complaint filed by The Ardent Companies LLC and others in March 2022 in DeKalb Superior Court regarding a proposed redevelopment of homes located on Bramblewood Drive.
Plaintiffs stated that Brookhaven officials attempted to obstruct the development. The jury agreed with the plaintiffs and awarded $6.7 million in damages before the city’s legal team successfully appealed the decision.
“I hope this ruling by the higher court dispels some of the rumors and innuendo in the community that we were doing anything other than what we are supposed to be doing, which is protecting the interests and assets of the taxpayers,” said City Manager Christian Sigman.
In its unanimous ruling, the Court of Appeals vacated the trial court’s decision, and remanded the case to the trial court with direction. A subsequent request by the plaintiffs for the Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision was denied, according to a city spokesperson.
“We said all along, that while we respect the jury’s hard work on this complex case, it should not have been allowed to come to trial in the first place,” said City Attorney Chris Balch. “While pleased with that decision, we know several issues remain for determination in this case.”
The original lawsuit accused Brookhaven of making Ardent “pay to play,” and accused city officials of “consistently, calculatingly and maliciously [abusing] governmental powers to obtain and protect their own financial interests.”
The lawsuit continued by stating that Ardent was asked to sell parcels of the 17 acres it had purchased for a townhome development back to the city in exchange for a tax abatement. City officials were also accused of asking Ardent to pay half of the proceeds of the project back to the city if it sold the completed project within four years, according to the lawsuit.
The original verdict also included $200,000 in punitive damages against Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst and Sigman.
“I am grateful for this ruling by the Appeals Court as it paves the way for total vindication in this matter,” said Ernst.