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Judge nixes new trial for ex-fiance

Gosselin says she won't second-guess jury's verdict

POSTED: November 23, 2008 5:00 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Wayne Gibbs

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A judge refused to grant a new trial Wednesday in the much-publicized case of the jilted bride.

Saying she wouldn’t second-guess a jury’s verdict and deciding another legal argument was without merit, Hall County Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin denied the motion for new trial requested by Wayne Gibbs.

A Hall County jury in July ordered Gibbs to pay his ex-fiancee, RoseMary Shell, $150,000 for breaking off their wedding engagement.

Shell sued Gibbs for breach of contract, claiming she gave up a good-paying job in Florida over the promise that he would marry her.

The unusual civil case drew widespread media attention, including an appearance by Shell on NBC’s "Today" show.

An attorney for Gibbs argued Wednesday that the jury’s verdict was excessive given the facts of the case. He also said that Shell should not have been able to enter her December 2006 bankruptcy petition into evidence during the trial.

Attorney Edward Hine told Gosselin that Shell should have informed the bankruptcy court of her pending lawsuit.

Shell’s attorney, Lydia Sartain, countered that the lawsuit was filed after the bankruptcy petition, and that the Chapter 7 bankruptcy requirements that Shell was under were not the same as Chapter 13 "re-organization" bankruptcy filings. She also said the attorney for Gibbs never raised the issue during the trial.

Gosselin, who has had the legal briefs filed by both sides since September, issued her ruling from the bench immediately after the arguments were completed.

"I am reluctant, as any judge I know, to tinker with a jury’s verdict,"
Gosselin said. "Although the verdict was evidently surprising to some, it was authorized by the evidence in the case.

"Any jury takes their case very seriously, and particularly in this case, you had an extremely intelligent and educated jury," the judge said. "So I am not willing to second guess their decision on this."

After the hearing, one of Gibbs’ attorneys said a decision had not been made on whether to appeal the case further to the Georgia Court of Appeals.

"There’s a good chance we will," attorney Hammond Law said.

Sartain said afterward that if Gibbs continues to appeal, it would be to delay paying the judgment.

"The law is abundantly clear; that’s why this hearing was so brief," Sartain said after the court proceeding, which lasted about 30 minutes. "There’s no basis for the appeal, other than just wanting to delay."

Sartain noted that the judgment is accruing interest of $1,000 a month, "so (Gibbs and his attorneys) will have a difficult decision" on whether to appeal further.

Shell said afterward that she was appreciative of the judge’s ruling.

"I’m very grateful to the jury for their decision, and Judge Gosselin was very respectful of that decision," Shell said.

Gibbs was not available for comment.



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