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Supreme Court rules in favor of JDA in Higdon appeal

Joseph W. Higdon has exhausted every legal option possible in his attempt to overturn the ruling of Superior Court Chief Judge A. Wallace Cato for a judgment against Mr. Higdon for monies due the Grady County Joint Development Authority.
The Georgia Supreme Court issued its ruling Tuesday and upheld the ruling of the lower court with all justices concurring.
This follows a decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals, which also upheld the ruling made in March 2011 by Judge Cato. The Court of Appeals issued its decision on November 29, 2011.
Grady County Joint Development Authority Attorney Thomas L. Lehman said Tuesday he is pleased with the court’s ruling and it clears the way for the JDA to attempt to collect on the $145,078.55 judgment plus attorney’s fees of $21,761.78.
“This also opens the door to go after the additional rent owned by Mr. Higdon to the authority. I will prepare to sue him again for the difference now owed,” Lehman said.
According to the JDA attorney, the debt currently owed by Higdon now exceeds $400,000 and is increasing at a rate of approximately $10,000 per month.
Back in March 2011, Judge Cato issued the judgment against Mr. Higdon, who personally guaranteed the lease of a Wight Road manufacturing facility custom built for Higdon Furniture Company.
Higdon’s attorney then appealed Cato’s ruling to the Georgia Court of Appeals in April seeking to overturn the judgment.
The original value of the lease, according to Lehman, was $1,725,982.72.
The 112,000 square foot facility on Wight Road was built by the JDA for use by Higdon Furniture Company. The company began production here in January 2005, and, at one time, employed 65 employees at the local plant. Then, in October 2007, the company filed for bankruptcy.
The authority is currently leasing the Higdon facility to Woodhaven Industries on a temporary basis. According to Lehman, the amount of rent the authority has collected will be deducted from the amount owed by Higdon.
Woodhaven has been leasing warehouse space at the former Higdon plant at a monthly payment of $6,000. The company has been leasing the additional space since last November and unless the lease is renewed, it will expire at the end of this month.
“This is the ruling I anticipated. It just took a lot longer to get than I would have thought,” Lehman said.
Lehman will brief members of the authority at its next meeting which is Tuesday, May 15, at noon.

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