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Civil trial pits landowners against supermarket
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A federal judge this week issued an injunction against Hall County’s inspection office in connection with a property owner’s civil lawsuit against a supermarket chain.

The trial of Lynn and Gary Kempler versus Ingles Markets Inc. is in its second week in front of a Hall County jury, and may go into a third.

The Kemplers have accused Ingles and two contractors of causing severe erosion and sediment damage to property the couple own next to a supermarket that was built in 2007 on Winder Highway in Flowery Branch.

At the center of the dispute is a detention pond built to manage stormwater runoff at the site. The plaintiffs say it was constructed improperly, resulting in sediment and silt in a pond and erosion of a driveway. According to court documents filed this week by Ingles, the Kemplers’ most recent settlement demand was $1.75 million.

In a response filed in September 2008, attorneys representing Ingles denied the allegations, saying the store’s activities “were in accordance with the applicable standards of care under all applicable laws, permits and regulations.”

The trial in Hall County Superior Court Judge C. Andrew Fuller’s courtroom began April 19 and was ongoing as of Wednesday afternoon, when a jury of nine women and six men, including three alternates, continued to hear testimony.

This week, Ingles asked U.S. District Court Judge Richard Story to step in after a Hall County inspector met with the grading contractor at the store’s detention pond on Friday.

According to a motion filed by Ingles, the inspector told the contractor  a storm water gate valve that was shut was supposed to be opened.

The company said the inspector’s instructions “contradict the plans approved by Hall County that require the gate valve to be closed.

“In addition, the requirement that the gate valve be left open might cause Ingles to violate state and county ordinances for storm water management,” the company said in its motion.

“The timing of the county’s actions during the trial stands to prejudice Ingles’ ability to have a fair trial,” the company stated.

Story, in an order issued Monday, granted the motion, issuing an injunction that prevents Hall County and its inspectors from “directing, instructing or requiring Ingles to do anything inconsistent with the plans for the storm water detention facility approved by Hall County.”

The trial continues.

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