LAFAYETTE, La. (ABiz) – Louisiana landman and whistleblower Dan Collins continues his legal battle to hold accountable some current and former state officials who were involved in an elaborate scandal involving the spending of millions of taxpayer dollars in what he says were phony environmental projects by the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.
Collins has maintained that the scheme earned a small cabal of lawyers, landowners and oil and gas companies a small fortune while illegally dredging for oil in the Atchafalaya Basin under the pretense of “water quality.”
A jury sided with Collins in December, awarding him $750,000.
On Monday, Judge Wilson Fields of the 19th Judicial District in Baton Rouge heard the state’s request to throw out the jury’s verdict or grant a new trial, which is referred to as a Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict or, alternatively, a motion for new trial.
Fields denied the JNOV request by the state, which now has a 30-day window to appeal the verdict. Attorney Crystal Bounds with the law office of Jill L. Craft once again represented Collins at the hearing.
“Basically they were asking the judge to overturn the verdict arguing that there was not enough facts and evidence to support it,” Bounds tells ABiz. “That was denied, as well as their motion for a new trial.
“What the defendant had to essentially argue was that the facts and evidence were so strongly and overwhelmingly in their favor that no reasonable juror could have entered into a contrary verdict, which they clearly couldn’t meet that burden,” adds Bounds.
She said the state seemed less concerned with the corruption initially identified in the case, instead trying to establish that Collins was not a public employee during his time working for LDNR while also ignoring the environmental violations, corruption and scandal that was eventually uncovered.
“Part of the argument was that the evidence didn’t support the jury’s determination that he was a public employee, but it was a unanimous decision on that element,” Bounds says. “All 12 members of the jury found that he should be treated as a public employee versus an independent contractor.
“I think the thrust of what they were arguing had to deal with the retaliation element that was adverse action taken against him as a result of his protected activities,” she adds. “Clearly the jury found that it was and all of the evidence supported it. It wasn’t just his conjecture and speculation but it was all the evidence that backed up what he was saying.”
Read more about the case here.