Harrah’s, Yates victors in challenge by Surplus City

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 21, 2000

Harrah’s and W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Co. do not have to pay punitive damages for trespassing on Surplus City USA property when the casino and hotel were being built in 1993, a Warren County Circuit Court jury decided Wednesday.

Ending a three-day trial before Judge Isadore Patrick, jurors said Harrah’s and Yates should not pay Jackson-based Surplus City and its owner, Carl N. Thomas of Jackson.

The 12-member jury deliberated an hour before it denied the damages.

In 1993, Thomas and the company sued Harrah’s and Yates claiming they trespassed on Thomas’ property when the hotel and casino were under construction.

In 1994, a Warren County Circuit Court found Yates guilty of trespassing during the construction and awarded Surplus City $3,000 in actual damages. The Mississippi Court of Appeals later ruled the jury should have been allowed to consider punitive damages against Harrah’s and Yates, a Philadelphia contractor, and that decision led to this week’s trial.

Attorneys for Surplus City argued that the sporting goods store lost $30,600 during the six months of construction.

Attorney David Kaufman, representing Harrah’s and Yates, said the trespass was unintentional. He added that the real problem was that Thomas wanted more for his property than the $465,000 offered by the City of Vicksburg in earlier negotiations.