North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

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August 15, 2013

Home Field Sports Grill owner says he'll appeal ruling to throw out lawsuit against Fultondale

FULTONDALE — A judge may have ruled that his lawsuit against the city of Fultondale can't go forward, but Home Field Sports Grill owner John Douglas hasn’t given up yet.

Douglas said Thursday that he plans to appeal the decision to grant a motion for summary judgment in favor of the city — in effect, dismissing the case as not having enough legal merit to go to trial.

The motion was granted Tuesday afternoon by Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Tom King, the result of a hearing held two weeks beforehand.

The lawsuit, filed by Douglas and the parent company of the restaurant, stems from a dispute over plans to rebuild the structure after it was heavily damaged in the April 2011 tornado.

King ruled that Douglas had not exhausted all of the legal avenues of appeal made available to him by those ordinances before filing suit.

“Obviously I’m disappointed, and I disagree with the decision,” Douglas said. “I think that Judge King’s order has some factual errors, and probably some legal errors in it.”

Douglas declined to elaborate until he speaks with his attorneys next week. “It could go into strategy for an appeal,” he said. “He [attorney Michael Brown] and I both thought the motion summary judgment would be denied, the case would be set for trial and we’d be able to let a jury hear the evidence.”

The battle between Douglas and the city, and specifically Mayor Jim Lowery, has spilled over into local politics. Douglas unsuccessfully ran against Lowery for mayor in last year’s municipal elections, and has used online social media extensively to garner support for his cause.

Douglas said his supporters were disappointed as well. “I think even a person that has no dog in the fight, who doesn’t know who were are ... feel that we should have been able to proceed to trial and let a jury hear it. But I’m going to take this as far as feasible. It’s become a matter of principle to me.”

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