Calling the ruling a "mixed bag," Troutman Sanders banking attorney Tom Powell, who is not involved in the case, said gross negligence has been the standard by which a banking officer can be found personally liable for a bank failure, and the ruling indicates that it will continue to be so.
"It's a high bar and it should be a high bar," Powell said. "It's happy news for us who are defending."
Four of the defendants had asked that the FDIC's suit be dismissed, while four others requested early judgment.
In an e-mail, Sen. Murphy said he was "pleased" with the court's ruling, but could not comment further because the case was still being litigated. A spokesman for the FDIC declined comment.
The ruling is important because Georgia has more failed banks than any other state since mid-2008, and more suits are expected. It is important to know what the standards are going to be, said Kevin LaCroix, executive vice president of OakBridge Insurance Services in Ohio and author of The D&O Diary, a respected blog about director and officer liability cases.
"The courts aren't going to substitute their judgment for the judgment of business managers," LaCroix said. "Allegations of negligence alone aren't enough."
LaCroix also noted that Jones' ruling allows the defendants to claim that the FDIC, in its role as regulator, helped cause Integrity's failure through its own lax oversight. The possibility of the defendants making that argument -- which is not an uncommon one -- could make the case significant outside of Georgia, LaCroix said.
In addition to Murphy, the defendants include Steven Skow, Alan Arnold, Douglas Ballard, Clinton Day, Joseph Ernest, Donald Hartsfield and Geraldo Reynolds. Ballard pleaded guilty to fraud charges that authorities said helped lead to the bank's collapse. Another officer, Joseph Todd Foster, pleaded guilty to securities fraud by way of insider trading.