LOS ANGELES (CN) – A California jury sided with pop star Katy Perry and the archbishop of Los Angeles late Friday, awarding nearly $5 million in damages in a long-running dispute over a former convent a restaurateur has blocked Perry from buying.
The jury found local developer Dana Hollister interfered in the transaction between the archbishop and Perry, who wanted to buy the former convent in the Los Feliz neighborhood of LA. The jury awarded the archdiocese $3.4 million and Perry's company Bird Nest $1.5 million in damages, the latter short of the $2.6 million Perry sought.
Punitive damages must still be decided, and the judge ordered the jurors back after the Thanksgiving holiday.
Hollister entered an agreement to buy the convent with two nuns, Sister Rita Callanan and Sister Catherine Rose Holzman, and their attorney Wendy Coffelt. The Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary convent, where the sisters lived, has been vacant since 2011.
Hollister then registered a title deed with the Los Angeles Recorder’s Office for the property as Archbishop Jose Gomez was negotiating a deal to sell the property to Perry for $14.5 million.
The jury found Hollister acted with malice against the plaintiffs by recording the deed and clouding the title for 2 ½ years, which the archdiocese and Perry have been fighting to clear.
Attorneys for Bird Nest and the archdiocese declined to comment after the verdict, which was not unanimous. Ten jurors agreed there had been intentional interference with prospective economic advantage to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters by Hollister. One juror voted against damages for the archbishop, two voted against damages for Bird Nest and two found no malice against Perry’s company.
Since the jury’s task is not over, LA Superior Judge Stephanie Bowick did not allow them to speak with the media.
Hollister's lawyer Michael Geibelson said he was disappointed with the results, but respected the jury's decision. He also noted he was barred from calling expert witnesses and introducing a large swath of evidence from the Vatican. Those witnesses would have offered testimony on complicated real estate deal, documents related to the Vatican, he said.
"We'll see what happens next," he said regarding an appeal and ongoing ones involving Callanan and Holzman, who were dismissed from the damages case but attended the trial.