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The largest jury award in Georgia history will stand. The state supreme court on Thursday rejected Time Warner Entertainment Co.’s final bid to overturn a $454 million verdict. A Gwinnett County jury in December 1998 awarded the owners of the Six Flags Over Georgia Amusement Park $197 million in compensatory and $257 million in punitive damages. The award is more than four times the state’s previous largest award. “It’s a powerful message, and it’s the right message,” says lead plaintiffs’ lawyer James E. Butler Jr. of the Georgia high court’s denial of Time Warner’s bid for certiorari. “I hope it shows that if you take a strong case to trial, and try it right in front of a great judge and there is no error, you can win on appeal,” he says. Time Warner and its law firm, Cravath, Swaine & Moore, did not respond to calls made late Thursday asking for comment about the ruling. PLAINTIFFS: WE WERE SHORTED The plaintiffs in the case were limited partners who contended Time Warner, the park’s then-manager, methodically shortchanged the park after 1992, so they would be pressed to sign a new contract with terms favorable to Time Warner. During a six-week trial, the owners introduced evidence to show that Time Warner withheld critical information from them and held down the value of the park by keeping revenues flat. Among other things, the owners charged that Time Warner had delayed installing “Batman, The Ride,” although the company had placed it in other theme parks that it manages. In April 1999 a Gwinnett County Superior Court ruled that the verdict wasn’t excessive, and in July 2000 the Court of Appeals upheld that ruling, finding the jury had sufficient evidence to justify the amount of the damages. FEW OPTIONS LEFT Time Warner is now left with few options. It can ask the court for reconsideration, and if that fails it could ask the U.S. Supreme Court for certiorari. But Butler says there are no federal issues and “it would be highly unlikely” for the company to petition in federal court. Butler says that in his 28 years of practicing law, he doesn’t think he’s seen such a strong, clear case. Lawyers, he says, can learn from his victory. “Our goal during trial was to avoid anything that could be characterized as error,” Butler says. “We had a fabulous judge; the only thing that worried us was the size [of the verdict].”

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