FORT BEND COUNTY, TX-A Fort Bend County judge Friday is expected to enter a judgment in a jury verdict awarding $896,000 in compensatory damages and $22.5 million in exemplary damages to a shopping center owner who sued Houston-based United Investors Realty Trust Inc., its parent, Equity One Inc., and a Houston broker.

The verdict for Settler’s Way & Highway Six Inc. also includes $145,000 in lost rent and exemplary damages of $7.5 million against each defendant: UIRT, Equity One and Donna Egan, a broker with a third party management company.

The lawsuit, filed July 27, 2001 in the 268th District Court, alleges Egan gave false legal advice to a tenant at the Fort Bend shopping center at the intersection of Settlers Way and Highway Six. The tenant subsequently broke the lease and moved into a UIRT shopping Center.

The Israel-based Equity One has agreed to indemnify Egan and is filing pre-judgment motions. An Equity One spokeswoman tells that she can’t comment on the case. In a prepared statement, Equity One chairman and CEO Chaim Katzman said the chain was “surprised and disappointed” by the verdict. “Based on the advice of our counsel, we believe that it is not supported by either the law or facts,” he added. Equity One claims the exemplary damages exceed the state’s maximum and the jury erred in concluding there was a long-term lease between the plaintiff and the tenant.

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