MIAMI-A judge threw out a $3.1-milion verdict against The Related Group on Thursday, ruling that the developers did not intend to harm a not-for-profit in trying to secure approvals for a condo project in Coconut Grove.
The lawsuit filed by the Vizcayans, a support group for the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, accused Related and its partners of engaging in a conspiracy to secure approvals for a condominium development to be built next to Mercy Hospital in Coconut Grove. The Vizcayans sought to recover the legal costs of their successful campaign that overturned the city’s approval of the project.
Miami-Dade Court Judge Daryl Trawick overturned a jury’s civil action award that was handed out after a month-long trial. Judge Trawick said the Vizcayans failed to prove the developers’ actions “targeted” the Vizcayans, and added that the developers’ conduct was allowed under their rights to petition the government and go to court, according to the Miami Herald.
The jury had previously ruled in favor of the Vizcayans, finding that the developers committed more than two dozen wrongful acts in pursuit of the projects, according to the newspaper report.
Israel Reyes, an attorney representing Related, said of the judge’s ruling, “For a judge, doing the right thing and following the law are one in the same, and that’s what Judge Trawick did in this case.”
Maria Utrera, the jury foreperson in the Related Group case, says some jurors wept when they learned of the judge’s decision. “I’m really upset about it. I think that justice was not served. We think they did manipulate the political system. The evidence showed that what they did was wrong,” she says.
Lawyers for the Vizcayans says they plan to appeal the judge’s decision.“The jury agreed with us totally,” says Vizcayan board member John Hinson. “I would like to think the jury’s verdict sends a message throughout the community that the actions by these defendants are wrong and shouldn’t be tolerated.” See story in the Miami Herald.