Winner of $11.4M verdict, represented by Andy Beshear, is largest creditor to Bullitt County city that filed for bankruptcy
08/21/2015 03:28 PM
A Bullitt County city has declared bankruptcy, largely due to its inability to pay a multimillion-dollar jury verdict won by clients of Democratic attorney general candidate Andy Beshear in 2012.
Hillview, a city of about 8,000 residents, filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection in federal court Thursday, seeking relief from $50 million to $100 million in debt. Truck America Training in Shepherdsville, which had been awarded $11.4 million by a Bullitt County jury in August 2012, is listed as the city’s largest creditor.
Hillview is the first city to seek Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection since Detroit in 2013.
The campaign for Beshear, an attorney with Stites & Harbison in Louisville, directed Pure Politics to one of Truck America Training’s owners in response to an email seeking comment.
On his Stites & Harbison biography, the $11.4 million judgement is listed first among Beshear’s recent assignments.
“As lead trial counsel, secured $11.4 million unanimous jury verdict for business client, the largest jury verdict ever rendered in that jurisdiction,” the biography reads.
The case stems from a real-estate conflict between Hillview and Truck America Training that dates back to 2002, with the jury award cited as a primary factor in the city’s decision to seek bankruptcy protection.
Truck America Training had entered a “lease-purchase offer” for a 40-acre tract of land in January 2002 that became the organization’s training facility for tractor-trailer drivers, according to court records.
The parcel was already in a legal dispute with developers of baseball and softball fields, but after that case’s resolution in late 2004, the city, under a new administration, was “no longer eager to complete the transaction” and eventually evicted Truck America Training in April 2005, court records show.
The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s verdict in March 2014.
Tammy Baker, city attorney for Hillview, could not be reached for comment by Pure Politics, but she told The Courier-Journal that the Kentucky Supreme Court declined to hear the city’s appeal in March, and no agreement on paying the settlement could be reached in mediation.
“That really was the big push for bankruptcy and we need to cut the interest off,” Baker told WDRB-TV. “We need to stop, get our numbers and work on our plan to pay that judgement.”
The Courier-Journal reports the jury award has grown to about $15 million with interest.
Beshear, in a March 2014 Stites & Harbison news release, said he was proud to represent Truck America Training in court.
“Most people who have their rights or contracts trampled on by a city government cannot fight back,” he said. “Jim (Carter) and Debby (Mobley) not only stood up to city hall, they won. Governments cannot and should not get away with violating a citizen’s rights.”
Sen. Whitney Westerfield, the Republican attorney general nominee, declined to comment on the merits of the case, but said the bankruptcy filing “raises a lot of questions for the taxpayer, for the legislature that a city can be bankrupted, that the taxpayer is ultimately on the hook for this money.”
The Hopkinsville Republican said he was unaware Beshear represented Truck America Training in the Hillview lawsuit until contacted by Pure Politics.
“It raises lots of questions that I think are of interest even without the race for attorney general being the side issue here,” Westerfield said.
Below the Fold
Time for bills in General Assembly getting tight as lawmakers head into second half of 30-day session
Bill looking to limit contingency fee contracts awarded by attorney general to $10M clears House committee
Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.