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In a last-ditch effort to save itself from paying out the largest jury award in Georgia’s history, Time Warner Entertainment Co. is asking the state’s supreme court to rethink its decision not to review the case. On Jan. 18, without comment, the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously rejected Time Warner’s certiorari bid. Time Warner Entertainment v. Six Flags Over Georgia, No. S00C1969 (Sup. Ct. Ga. Jan. 19, 2001). The entertainment giant was hoping to overturn a whopping $454 million verdict — $257 million in punitive damages — awarded in December 1998 to owners of the Six Flags Over Georgia amusement park. The owners convinced a Gwinnett County jury that Time Warner, which managed the park, deliberately kept revenues flat so the owners would be pressed to sign a new contract with less favorable terms. Lawyers for Time Warner now contend that brand-new case law, decided after the parties had briefed its petition for certiorari, requires the supreme court to reverse the Court of Appeals decision affirming the trial court’s verdict. The Court of Appeals decision is “flatly contradictory” to the rule set forth by the new case, Time Warner’s lawyer, Norman L. Underwood of Troutman Sanders, argued in a motion for reconsideration filed Jan. 26. The case, Paul v. State, No. S0060417 (Sup. Ct. Ga. Oct. 2, 2000), confirmed the proposition that a trial judge is forbidden to comment on witness credibility. Time Warner says the Gwinnett County Superior Court judge admonished its most critical witness, then turned to the jury and said, “I’m going to ask the jury to take notice of the fact that this witness was being evasive.” Those comments “were more egregious than those [the judge's comments to the jury] found to be improper in Paul v. State,” Underwood argued. But in a short reply filed Jan. 29, Six Flags Over Georgia recapped that a total of 24 judges — including the Georgia Court of Appeals and the state supreme court — have reviewed the law and facts. Six Flags’ reply went on to chide Time Warner’s argument as an act of hopelessness. “Time Warner describes the unobjected to, single admonishment to one witness to be responsive in a six-week trial as more ‘egregious’ than what transpired in Paul. Desperation alone explains that exaggeration,” James E. Butler Jr. of Butler, Wooten, Overby, Fryhoffer, Daughtery & Sullivan, wrote. The state’s high court may rule on Time Warner’s bid for reconsideration at any time. If the court is steadfast in its decision not to hear the case, the company’s only chance to overturn the verdict, which is four times greater than Georgia’s largest award to date, would be to move the case to federal court. To do that, Time Warner must persuade a federal court that there is a federal question at stake.

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