After about four hours of deliberations late Thursday, a Muscogee County State Court jury returned a verdict of almost $1 million against a Columbus bail bonding company in a case of mistaken identity.
The jury awarded Jasmine Hayes $350,000 in compensatory damages and $600,000 in punitive damages against John F. Law, doing business as Ace Bonding Co., said Hayes’ attorney David Rayfield of Waldrep Mullin & Callahan LLC.
“I believe that the jury did see what Jasmine Hayes went through and that was part of the decision,” Rayfield said Friday morning. “But I think it’s a great verdict for Columbus because of what it means about how bail bonding companies will conduct their business going forward. I think this jury absolutely sent a message.”
The jury of seven women and five men did not return their verdict until after 9 p.m. Thursday.
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The $950,000 verdict will be reduced to $600,000 total, according to Georgia law, Rayfield said. Though the jury awarded $600,000 in punitive damages, there is a $250,000 cap under law because the jury did not find that the bounty hunter acted with intent.
Hayes was working at the Walmart on Gateway Road in June 2014 when a bounty hunter entered the store looking for a “Jasmine Hayes,” who was wanted on a child cruelty charge.
The only identification the bail bondsman had was the name and that the woman was a black female.
“He did not have a photograph, height, weight or anything like that,” Rayfield said.
He handcuffed the woman in an office while her managers watched. It took between 45 minutes and an hour and a half for the bounty hunter to determine he had the wrong “Jasmine Hayes,” according to testimony in front of Judge Ben Richardson.
During the trial, it was determined that Ace Bonding did not have policies or procedures in place to prevent such a case of mistaken identity, Rayfield said.