42nd Avenue Station: New trial needed

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On Monday (May 14), a Hennepin County District Court jury returned a $388,000 verdict in favor of 42nd Avenue Station & Deli LLC, according to 42nd Avenue Station’s attorney. The defendants were Tyler Avestini, the 4171 Lyndale Ave. N building owner; and Avestco Commercial Properties Inc.

But by Wednesday, a bizarre turn of events caused that verdict to disappear, and the week-long trial will have to be held all over again.

The building was damaged in the May 22, 2011 tornado, and 42nd Avenue Station has been closed since. Avestco sued in Hennepin County Housing Court to evict 42nd Avenue Station, and 42nd Avenue Station sued in civil court to recover damages it said it is owed because building repairs after the storm were not handled properly. The two cases were combined before the trial.

According to an order filed by Hennepin County District Court Judge Ronald Abrams, who presided over the trial, he declared a mistrial because the jury had access to information that wasn’t properly classified as evidence in the trial.

“The jury began deliberations on May 11, 2012 and returned a verdict for the Plaintiffs on May 14, 2012,” the order reads.

“On May 16, 2012, at 9 a.m., the Court became aware that two large volumes of exhibits that had not been admitted into evidence, labeled ‘Business Records from September 2009 to June 2010’ and ‘Business Records from July 2010 to May 2011,’ had been inadvertently placed in the jury’s deliberation room.

“The court immediately scheduled a teleconference call for 3 p.m. on May 16, 2012 to disclose the error to the parties and give the parties an opportunity to be heard. Larry B. Leventhal, Esq. and Elizabeth C. Royal, Esq. appeared on behalf of the plaintiff. Thomas R. Ward, Esq. and Paul J. Bosman, Esq. appeared on behalf of the defendant. Neither party objected to the Court declaring a mistrial.”

Leventhal, attorney for 42nd Avenue Station, said another conference is planned on May 31 to schedule the new trial. Ward, attorney for Avestco, declined to discuss the case when reached by NorthNews Friday.

NorthNews tried several times last week, without success, to obtain documentation of the jury’s verdict, from the judge’s office and from the court’s public affairs office.

Leventhal did not appear optimistic that the case might be settled before a second trial. “It doesn’t look too hopeful,” he said, “but there’s always a chance. We would like to see that if it’s at all possible.”