Arkansas court upholds $122.5M award in bombing case
Updated 1:52 pm, Thursday, December 1, 2016
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas' highest court on Thursday upheld a $122.5 million civil judgment against a former doctor who was convicted in a 2009 bombing that severely injured the state medical board's chairman, rejecting his argument that a judge should have allowed him to prove he wasn't responsible for the explosion.
Justices upheld a lower court's 2013 summary judgment that Dr. Trent Pierce was entitled to damages from Randeep Mann in the bombing. Pierce was severely injured by a grenade that was hidden in a spare tire outside his West Memphis home. Mann is serving a life sentence for conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and other charges in that attack.
A jury awarded the compensatory and punitive damages last year. His attorney had argued that Mann should have been allowed to defend himself in the lawsuit, saying he would have had safeguards in civil court that weren't available to him in the criminal case.
"Given that the criminal trial lasted five weeks, it cannot be said that he lacked a full and fair opportunity to litigate his responsibility for the actions that led to Dr. Pierce's injuries with a higher burden of proof than he would face in a civil trial," Justice Robin Wynne wrote in the court's ruling.
An attorney for Pierce said the former Medical Board chairman was pleased with the ruling
"I am gratified that the court accepted our arguments and that the judgment was affirmed and can finally be laid to rest and we can go to work to try to collect some portion of this judgment for my clients who have suffered a lot as a result of this bombing," Robert Cearley said.
A case is pending in federal court over the fate of 94 firearms owned by Mann that Cearley said, if sold, could generate $1.5 million to $2 million to apply to the judgment.
An attorney for Mann did not immediately return a call requesting comment Thursday.
Prosecutors said Mann plotted the bombing in retaliation for the Medical Board sanctioning him for complaints he was over-prescribing pain pills to known drug addicts. The board revoked Mann's right to prescribe narcotics after complaints that 10 of his patients overdosed and died. Prosecutors did not allege that Mann himself placed the bomb in Pierce's driveway and no one has been charged as the bomber.
Two members of the court dissented, saying the civil judgment required Pierce to show that Mann was liable for assault and battery against the former Medical Board chairman.
"Put simply, Mann was not charged with assault or battery in federal criminal court," Justice Josephine Linker Hart wrote.
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