Phoebe takes it on the chin in court - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Phoebe takes it on the chin in court

February 9, 2006

Albany -- A Dougherty County jury's laughter could be heard coming from the jury room before it decided that Phoebe Putney Hospital will not only pay top dollar for a dwelling it wants, but for the tenant's moving expenses as well.

The hospital will have to pay more than a quarter of a million dollars for taking an elderly woman's house.

Phoebe seized the house on 4th Avenue to expand its employee childcare center. But the homeowner doesn't want the money, and still plans to fight to keep her house.

The jury decided Phoebe Putney Hospital should pay Julia Lemon $51,000 in moving expenses if they take her home of 26 years. "Oh, it feels good. I've got enough money to move," Julia Lemon said. Will you move now? "Oh yea, I'm going to have to move."

The homeowner, Julie Montgomery, was stunned to receive $200,000 as the fair market value for the home on 4th Avenue. " I consider this a victory. I think my attorney would agree."

Phoebe offered only $53,000 for the property, but the jury ruled the hospital giant will pay nearly five times that much. The jury could be heard laughing loudly from their deliberation room before announcing their verdict, and many had big smiles on their faces as the Judge read it.

Montgomery said, "It's just unbelievable. It says a lot about the type of people who were on the jury, who understood the issues."

Montgomery did not want to sell her house. But under eminent domain, Phoebe took it so the hospital could expand its daycare center.

Jury members would not talk to us, but Montgomery felt their verdict told Phoebe they could not cavalierly take people's property against their will. "They clearly know that this is going to happen over and over and over again. And I think that lawmakers should pay attention to these things," Montgomery said.

Attorney Eddie Meeks said "It's pleasing to see the community, the people, especially this jury, let Phoebe Putney that they don't have all the power."

But Meeks says they will continue to appeal the case to the State Court of Appeals. "We will let Phoebe have their money back, just give us our house back."

As Julia Lemon headed back home, she had a broad a smile on her face. "God had a hand in it, honey. Don't you know that? All you got to do is believe in him. And I'm satisfied."

Phoebe Putney hasn't said whether they will appeal the verdict.

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