A former bank president’s alleged actions resulted in a Rutherford County jury awarding nearly $4 million Wednesday to a Murfreesboro real estate developer who sued claiming forgery and fraud.
A 12-person jury found Wilson Bank & Trust knowingly acted recklessly and fraudulently and awarded Murfreesboro builder and developer Ken Howell and his companies, Stones River Homes and Richmond’s Retreat, roughly $3.9 million in a forgery and fraud case.
Howell filed suit against the bank contending forgery and fraud by former Murfreesboro branch president Stan Hayes caused his companies to fail.
After three weeks of testimony and three days of deliberations, jurors gave damages totaling $3.4 million to Howell and his companies in addition to $50,000 for his wife, Winifred Howell. It awarded another $358,000 in prejudgment interest.
Under the state Consumer Protection Act, the jury awarded Howell, his wife and companies a total of about $1.3 million for unfair and deceptive business practices while Hayes was employed with the company. The jury found Howell did not owe the bank anything.
The bank’s attorney did not defend the actions of Hayes. Rather, he argued the bank’s directors were not aware of Hayes’ actions, and it was not responsible for the failure of Howell’s companies.
The jury recessed Wednesday and was expected to come back Thursday at 1 p.m. to deliberate on a request for $15 million in punitive damages, which is considered separately under Tennessee law.
Throughout the trial, defense attorneys have contended Hayes is solely to blame for the fraudulent activity because he acted as a rogue employee and concealed his actions from fellow executives.
Wilson Bank & Trust executives said they could not comment on Wednesday’s ruling, but would release a statement following the final jury decision expected Thursday.
– The Daily News Journal of Murfreesboro and The Murfreesboro Post contributed to this report.