Stewart County Couple Awarded Over $135 Million by Federal Jury
When people come to Georgia to do business, they have to follow the law and respect our citizens. Silicon Ranch Corporation (SRC) and its contractor Infrastructure and Energy Alternatives, Inc. (IEA) thought they could get away with spreading lies and despoiling natural resources in Stewart County. Now they’re going to pay for what they did.
On April 28th, a U.S. District Court jury awarded lifetime Stewart County residents Shaun and Amie Harris $135.5 million for damage done to their property by the Tennessee solar company, its contractor, and the contractor’s subsidiary, IEA Constructors.
They Were Full of Unkept Promises
SRC and IEA came to Stewart County full of promises that would never be kept. When SRC purchased the property for its solar facility, SRC officials assured the previous owners that they would be “good neighbors.” They also insisted that their effect on the local environment would be minimal, saying, “You won’t even know we’re there.”
SRC claimed that “there would be no impact to the downstream property.” But they proceeded to intentionally pollute Shaun and Amie’s property, which was formerly known as Kawikee Refuge.
SRC and IEA cleared and mass-graded about 1000 acres without first installing adequate erosion and sediment control measures, which is against the law. This unleashed a torrent of pollution on downstream residents Shaun and Amie, which has continued for more than two years. SRC and IEA were eventually found guilty of intentionally polluting their neighbor’s property because the jury agreed SRC and IEA knew this would be the result of their actions.
They Tried to Escape the Consequences
To evade responsibility for their illegal and destructive actions, SRC and IEA blamed everyone they could think of and denied all responsibility for the harm they caused. Company officials pointed their fingers in every direction, claiming that the true culprit was actually:
- Plaintiffs, Shaun and Amie Harris
- Too much rain
- “Erodible” soils
- The firm that designed their sediment control plan
At trial, it soon became apparent that SRC and IEA were entirely responsible for damaging Shaun and Amie’s property. After denying responsibility for two years, during the course of the trial, SRC president Reagan Farr and IEA Constructors president Brian Alfredson both admitted liability on the witness stand.
Compensatory and Punitive Damages Awarded to Shaun and Amie
Shaun and Amie’s property is also home to wetlands and a 21-acre trophy fishing lake. Pollution from SRC’s enormous solar facility inundated the wetlands and destroyed the fishery, turning it into a lifeless mud hole.
According to Columbus Attorney James E. Butler of Butler Prather LLP, “For over two years, SRC and IEA failed to stabilize and vegetate almost a thousand acres they had managed.”
By refusing to adequately care for the land where they erected their massive cluster of solar panels, SRC and IEA did immense harm to Shaun and Amie’s property.
The jury found that SRC, IEA, and IEA Constructors, LLC acted with specific intent to cause harm. The verdict requires the defendants to pay $10.5 million in compensatory damages and $125 million in punitive damages.
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If you were harmed by somebody’s careless behavior, contact Butler Prather LLP by calling (706) 322-1990 today.