The lawsuit saying Versant Energy acted negligently when slicing down 973 Christmas timber underneath its energy strains will proceed after Penobscot County Choose Bruce Mallonee declined to dismiss the case Friday morning.
Ervin Tower, of Patten, filed a lawsuit in February alleging Versant staff trespassed on his land in September 2022 and reduce down the Christmas timber, price greater than $20,000. The timber had been grown underneath high-voltage energy strains in a transmission hall, Versant legal professional Arrian Stockdell mentioned.
There is no such thing as a dispute the 973 timber had been grown in a 100-foot easement underneath the ability strains, attorneys on each side agreed.
Along with being allowed to develop Christmas timber, the easement additionally says that if energy firm staff injury the land or take away timber, the agency can pay damages.
The timber had been “hardly a menace” and weren’t taller than 7 ft, Tower’s legal professional, Patrick Hunt, mentioned Friday in courtroom.
In trade for permitting Tower to develop the timber, Versant has sole discretion to chop the timber down, Stockdell mentioned.
Tower purchased the farm in 1981 and signed an easement with Maine Public Service Co. in 1985. When the easement was negotiated Tower ought to have requested for provisions permitting the timber to succeed in a sure top or age, Stockdell mentioned.
There may be ambiguity in how the easement language works, Mallonee mentioned. There may be some degree of expectation that the suitable to chop is completed for necessity, slightly than for any purpose in any respect, he mentioned.
A Versant supervisor apologized for what occurred and provided compensation for Tower’s loss, in accordance with an e-mail from Steve Sloan, supervisor of transmission growth and vegetation administration, dated the day after the tree slicing.
“It shouldn’t have occurred, and it is extremely vital to us to run our program effectively, to reside as much as commitments and have good relationships with our prospects,” Sloan wrote in an e-mail, in accordance with courtroom paperwork. “We’re taking steps to ensure this can’t occur once more.”
Versant requested the decide to strike that trade from the case.
“We frequently conform to pay claims with none litigation just because it’s the suitable factor to do,” Stockdell mentioned.
He argued there was an evidentiary rule that made these forms of negotiations inadmissible and that it will taint a jury pool.
Mallonee denied the movement to strike the trade.
Within the lawsuit Tower mentioned he’s owed $36,000 in precise damages for the lack of the timber, the price of eradicating the stumps, a few of that are a foot excessive, the price of seedlings to switch the misplaced timber and the labor to perform these duties.
If a decide finds Versant acted negligently, Tower is entitled to double the precise injury quantity and is entitled to triple damages if Versant acted deliberately or knowingly, in accordance with the criticism.
Maine Public Service merged in 2014 with Bangor Hydro to create Emera Maine. Versant’s Canadian mother or father firm acquired Emera Maine in 2020.
No future courtroom dates are scheduled.