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Federal judge puts city on clock to take case to appeal

The jury verdict — and $6.5 million judgment — in the case David Hill v. Forest Grove will stand, for now.

United States Magistrate Judge John Acosta denied all but one motion lawyers for the city of Forest Grove filed in Federal District Court Tuesday.

Acosta’s ruling was the last stage for the lawsuit in Federal District Court. Now it’s up to the city of Forest Grove to decide whether to appeal the ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The lawsuit, originally filed in Washington County Circuit Court, then moved to federal court in 2008, alleged that city officials delayed a proposed subdivision, the Parks, located just northwest of Forest Grove High School, near David Hill Road.

In October 2011, a jury found the city had unfairly delayed the development and awarded David Hill Development $6.5 million in damages.

The city filed motions last November in district court for a new trial and a review by Acosta of the legal factors in the case in an attempt to overturn the October 2011 jury verdict.

The one motion Acosta granted, dismissing the jury’s finding that the city’s delay of the construction of The Parks was a particular form of government taking known as exaction didn’t change the jury’s overall verdict in the case, or the cash award.

“It’s nice to be able to move forward,” said Tim McDonald, managing member of David Hill Development, which brought the suit.

Acosta’s ruling ends the opportunity for further motions in district court. Now, the city of Forest Grove must mull whether to appeal the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“It’s really in the city’s pocket now in what to do next,” McDonald said.

The city has roughly a month to file an appeal.

Forest Grove City Manager Michael Sykes declined to comment on the case.

Last November, the News-Times reported that Rick Kuhn, a lawyer who represented Forest Grove in the case, said he expected the case to head to the Ninth Circuit.

“There are so many different legal issues,” Kuhn said at the time. “We always assumed that even if we won the case, the other side would file an appeal.”

Kuhn didn’t return a phone call Wednesday seeking comment.

If the city appeals, the verdict and the $6.5 million judgment could be overturned.

If the city chooses not to appeal, it could pay up to $8 million, including reimbursement to David Hill Development for legal fees. The city’s insurance has a cap of $5 million, leaving the city to potentially pay $3 million.

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