Palestine Mayor Steve Presley wants to delay a court hearing that will determine how much the city owes Lone Star Equipment in legal fees. The hearing, before District Judge Mark Calhoon, is now scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday.
“I hope the court will give us a reasonable extension of time before any further action is taken, since we have changed attorneys,” Presley stated in a text message to the Herald-Press.
Last month, city council members fired then-City Attorney Ron Stutes, after the city lost a week-long civil trial that resulted in a $500,000 judgment. They then designated Jeff Herrington of Palestine to act as the city's attorney-of-record in the Lone Star case.
The loser in a civil trial typically covers the legal fees of the winner. Legal fees are in addition to the $500,000 judgment for breach of contract. Jurors ruled the city, in 2014, failed to cover Lone Star's construction costs for a 1,950-foot asphalt road, from U.S. 79 to Sanderson Farms.
A hefty legal tab could raise the lawsuit's total cost to the city to nearly $1 million. The case ran for two years. During the week-long trial, ending on March 4, Lone Star used two attorneys. Lone Star's legal fees could easily exceed $100,000, or even $200,000.
The city of Palestine was one vote away from prevailing in the lawsuit, court documents show.
Unlike criminal cases, where jurors must be unanimous to obtain a conviction, only 10 of 12 jurors need to agree in a civil case. Lone Star attorneys got 10. The other two jurors, who did not attach their names to the verdict form, dissented in favor of the city.
The verdict stunned Palestine officials, who thought the trial would result in an easy win for the city.