Eagles nest punitive damage case moves along

An appeals court has upheld an order allowing former Stock Development vice president Joe Ulrich to seek punitive damages against the company in a bald eagle nest destruction case.

Ulrich alleges that the top Stock executives set him up to take the fall for cutting down a bald eagle nest at Lely Resort in 2003.

After a three-day trial in 2006, a jury acquitted Ulrich of breaking federal eagle protection laws. Ulrich then filed a civil lawsuit accusing Stock Development, four subsidiaries, Stock CEO Brian Stock and Stock President Bob Imig of fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

A circuit court judge signed an order in August 2008 paving the way for the punitive damage claim, which Stock attorneys appealed to the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland. A three-judge appeal panel upheld the order in an opinion filed Wednesday.

The opinion states that the decision to uphold the earlier order is based on a limited scope of review, namely whether the circuit court judge followed the correct procedures.

The panel states that its opinion does not address the merits of the punitive damage claim and states that one of the corporations named in the civil lawsuit did not exist in 2003.

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