City found liable for not disclosing Councilor’s son was on jury during suit involving city
Published 10:09 am Tuesday, April 26, 2022
In the case against the city of Picayune and the architectural firm that was involved in the construction of the addition to City Hall, the city has been found negligent for not alerting the court that the son of a Councilor was on the jury.
The trial in question was originally held on April 12, 2021, to determine if the architectural firm was liable for flooding that occurred in the addition to City Hall after its completion. The original trial ended in a mistrial after it was discovered the son of City Councilor Larry Breland was on the jury.
A counterclaim bench trail was held on April 13, 2022, where a judgment issued by 15th Circuit Court Judge Anthony Mozingo found negligence on the part of the city for not disclosing the fact that Breland’s son was on the jury during the original trial held on April 12, 2021. In the counterclaim judgment, the city has been ordered to issue monetary damages to the architectural firm, Landry Lewis Germany Architects PA.
According to court document 315 in the case of City of Picayune vs Landry Lewis Germany Architects PA filed on April 19, of this year, on the last day of the original trial in 2021, it was determined that Lorenzo Breland, the son Councilor Larry Breland, was on the jury. His presence on the jury, combined with the fact that the alternates on the jury had been released prior to that last day, led to a mistrial.
According to previous coverage, the city spent about $280,000 in legal fees in relation to the case. The counterclaim suit alleges then City Manager Jim Luke, Councilor Larry Breland and Lorenzo Breland should have alerted the court to the fact that Lorenzo is the son of Larry and was on the jury.
During the April 13, 2022 hearing, Mayor Jim Luke, Larry Breland, Lorenzo Breland and the managing partner of the architect firm were called as witnesses to testify.
Luke and Breland testified that they knew Lorenzo Breland had been selected for the jury, and testified that they alerted their lawyer to that fact. Both men said that since they told their legal representation, “it must be acceptable for an immediate family member such as Juror (Lorenzo) Breland to be a member of the jury,” the court document states.
Lorenzo Breland testified that he intentionally did not fill out the portion of his juror questionnaire requesting names and addresses of family members because he never fills those portions of forms or questionnaires. The court document states Lorenzo testified he never supplies that information on any form or questionnaire due to that fact “he is ‘a grown man.'”
The court document goes on to state, “Further Juror Breland knowingly swore on the questionnaire that he was not involved in any other litigation at the time of the original trial. LLG’s attorney then confronted Breland with evidence of federal court litigation Juror Breland filed and is pending in the State of Louisiana.”
While Juror Breland testified at trial he could be impartial to LLG in the original trail, “yet he admitted that he was more likely to believe his father than anyone else,” document 315 states.
As a result of the mistrial in 2021, LLG sued the city for negligence, since the firm alleges the city was duty bound to disclose Lorenzo Breland’s tie to Larry Breland.
Document 315 states that the decision of the court on the matter was, “The Court finds Picayune breached these duties when its officials, sitting as the city’s representatives at trial, failed to alert the Court and LLG of Lorenzo Breland’s fraud upon the Court. This breach caused both LLG and the City to waste time and expense of a multi-day trial, only for the court to declare a mistrial,” the April 19, 2022 court document states.
“Further Juror Breland clearly misled the court about his relationship with Councilman Breland, his father, and longstanding relationship with Mayor Luke. (Not withstanding Councilman Breland’s statement to the Court at the conclusion of his testimony that his son had been “taken in and had no choice” and is “caught up in a conspiracy”, ostensibly to ruin his family’s reputation, the Court finds that Juror Breland is not a victim of any conspiracy, that both Councilman Breland and his son were voluntary participants in the proceeding during which fraud was committed upon the Court, and that Juror Breland never sought to be excused from jury duty because of what he knew was his important conflict of interest,” document 315 states.
“The Court finds that the City violated a duty owed to the public, the Court, and LLG by not notifying them of Lorenzo Breland’s relationship with Councilman Larry Breland. The Court finds Picayune was therefore negligent because the City breached the standard of care owed to the Court and opposing party,” the document states.
Luke and Larry Breland declined to comment on the outcome of the hearing held earlier this month, citing ongoing litigation.
Larry Breland said his son would also not like to make comment.