By WES HELBLING
North Ouachita Weekly News
Posted Jun 23, 2011 @ 01:33 PM
Sterlington, La. — More than a year after a suit was filed in the Third Judicial District Court against the USA Speedway, a hearing in the case is slated for August 29.
New Orleans attorney Clay Garside filed the original petition for damages and permanent injunction on behalf of 18 plaintiffs in August 2010. The petition alleges the noise and dust created by the race track are “an unreasonable intrusion into the use and enjoyment of Plaintiffs’ homes” and have lowered the neighborhood’s property values.
In October, the petition was amended to include 42 additional plaintiffs with a second cause of action alleging Speedway owner Bobby Hobson “conspired with others, including Ronnie Malone and Ronnie Kilcrease, to intimidate and threaten the Plaintiffs into withdrawing” from the suit. Notarized affidavits describing the alleged incidents of intimidation were filed as exhibits.
Monroe attorney Jim Norris, then representing USA Speedway LLC and owner Bobby Hobson, filed dilatory exceptions of improper joinder of parties in September and October. The exceptions allege “several listed plaintiffs … were unaware of their inclusion” in the petition and do not wish to pursue the suit.
Records on file with the Union Parish Clerk of Court show hearings on the exceptions were slated for Jan. 6, Feb. 7 and June 13. Lafayette attorney Thomas R. Hightower Jr., who replaced Norris as counsel for the defendant, filed a request on May 16 that the June 13 hearing be postponed because Hobson could not be present to testify.
Hightower’s Memorandum for Continuance reads in part: “As may be seen from the court record … serious allegations have been lodged against Mr. Hobson himself, accusing him of activities which he categorically denies. Mr. Hobson is confident he will be able to bring sufficient evidence to the Court to refute the allegations which are of course the subject, at least partially, of the Exceptions that are pending.”
Records show Third Judicial District Judge Jay B. McCallum recused himself from the case on June 13, having previously ruled in a civil case involving one of the plaintiffs, and the case was reassigned to Judge R. Wayne Smith.
An Order signed by Judge Smith on June 14 states the “Defendants failed to provide any specific factual allegations, any evidence, or any memorandum in support of their exceptions … Considering the complete lack of support for Defendants’ exceptions, the Court finds that oral argument is unnecessary.”
The order requires that the defendants show cause on Aug. 29 why the dilatory exceptions should not be denied.
Following an investigation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined USA Speedway LLC had violated the Clean Water Act by discharging fill material into a wetlands area without the required permit to do so. In Nov. 2010 the EPA required Hobson to restore 2.4 acres of wetland around the race track.
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