Building owner hit with $125 million verdict for wrongful death

Property owners take note: If a recent verdict is any indication, Georgia jurors are very sympathetic toward the victims of negligent landlords. That seems to be the message of a $125 million wrongful death verdict against the owners of the Ralston Towers, which primarily houses low income and disabled tenants on government assistance.

The case was filed by a 62-year-old man's surviving adult daughter after he died in the 98-degree heat of a Ralston room. The air conditioning, which the deceased depended on to manage his medical condition, wasn't working.

That was generally symptomatic of problems at the Ralston, where residents say that most requests for repairs went unheeded, according to attorneys for the plaintiff. They made a vivid demonstration of the building's poor conditions for the jury by stringing together 108 work orders from residents requesting repairs in the two months prior to the victim's death. One resident testified that the manager laughed when he reported problems with his air conditioning and asked for repairs.

The odds are good that nobody is laughing now. The jury focused on the wretched living conditions people were forced to endure because they had few other options. While the plaintiff's attorney asked for $51 million, the jury ultimately awarded the plaintiff $35 million for her father's wrongful death and $15 million for painful suffering. They also determined that the defendant should pay $25 million in attorney fees and $50 million in punitive damages. In total, it took only two hours for the jury to hand down its verdict.

Punitive damages exist solely to punish the defendant for behavior that the jury finds particularly reprehensible. As the plaintiff's attorney said, "It says the jury of Columbus is fed up...This needs to stop."

If your loved one died because of someone else's negligence, find out what options you have to get justice.

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