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Case appealed; party open to talks with city over $11.4 M judgment

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By Thomas Barr

 HILLVIEW — After motions made by the city of Hillview were struck down, the $11.4 million settlement in favor of a local truck driving training center is now headed to the state Court of Appeals.

No court dates have been set. Cases sent to the state Court of Appeals may not be heard for at least a year.

In August, a jury ruled that the city of Hillview should pay $11.4 million in damages to Truck America Training at the close of a trial in Bullitt Circuit Court.

Previously, Circuit Judge Rodney Burress ruled that the city had breached its 2004 contract to sell 40 acres of property to the equipment driver training school.

The trial in August was held to set the liabilities faced by the city.

On Sept. 19, Hillview attorney Mark Edison argued several motions asking Burress to alter the jury’s decision. However, in Burress’ ruling on Oct. 15, he said the issues brought up by Edison were things which should have been handled during the trial.

“A good portion of the information and allegations contained in the defendant’s motion are issues which could have been raised during presentation of the defendant’s case,” wrote Burress in his order. “However, the defendant chose only to call one witness, Jim Carter, Truck America’s president. The evidence introduced by Mr. Carter reinforced the damages which are claimed by Truck America.”

He summarized his order by stating that “there was substantial evidence to support the verdict which was presented by the jury.”

Attorney Andrew Beshear, who was joined by Scott Wantland in representing Truck America Training, said he is surprised that the city or its attorney have not called him to discuss the handling of the verdict.

“The city continues to refuse to make it right,” said Beshear, who confirmed that his client is willing to talk with the city officials on the verdict.

“My clients don’t wish any harm on the city of Hillview but they have been pushed into action. I expected a phone call because Hillview should make it right.”

The attorneys have filed requests to garnish funds on the city’s bank accounts prior to the completion of the appeal. Beshear said he couldn’t predict the outcome on that request.

He does know that while the appeal is waiting, it would be costing the city about $1.6 million a year in interest.

The dispute arose when city officials struck a deal with Truck America Training to acquire 40 acres next to its current location off Ferguson. The acquisition would allow the start of a heavy equipment training school.

The plaintiffs leased the property until a previous lawsuit by the city and the original purchaser was settled. When the driving school requested a closing date to purchase the property, as was stated in the contract, the city refused.

A lawsuit followed. The plaintiffs successfully argued that the loss of use of the 40 additional acres not only cost them students for the heavy equipment school but also the ability to borrow money used to help future students finance their driving school certification.