Greenbush man loses high court appeal of property damage suit

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A Greenbush man who had sought millions in a lawsuit against Emera Maine and a contractor for damage done to his property has had his appeal of the amount he was awarded denied.

In exchange for $31,600, Jay McLaughlin had granted Emera temporary rights of access over some of the roads on his approximately 3,200-acre property in Greenbush. Emera and its contractor, Hawkeye LLC needed that access in order to rebuild an electrical transmission line that crossed McLaughlin’s property. The parties agreed that Emera would be responsible to effectuate any repairs “beyond normal wear and tear” that occurred as a result of the transmission line rebuild. Hawkeye and a subcontractor completed substantial repair work on McLaughlin’s property. McLaughlin alleged, however, that those repairs were insufficient and that Emera and Hawkeye failed to repair damage to the surrounding land, culverts, roads, trees, and vegetation that Emera and Hawkeye had caused.

In 2013 McLaughlin filed claims against Emera and Hawkeye, LLC, seeking several million dollars in damages at trial. A judge instead awarded McLaughlin $66,866.36, including attorney fees and costs, finding that McLaughlin had failed to present sufficient or persuasive evidence regarding the extent of the damages to his property. The judge did, however, award McLaughlin $44,866.36 in damages – $20,000 on a breach of contract claim, $22,000 on a negligence claim, and $2,866.36 on a trespass claim. The court also awarded McLaughlin $20,000 in attorney fees and $2,000 in costs. McLaughlin appealed the judgment, and Emera and Hawkeye cross-appealed, arguing that the court erred in its award of attorney fees to McLaughlin because it applied a newer version of state law, rather than the one applicable at the time of the suit and that he should be allowed only half of the trespass claim award for damages.

In its ruling, high court justices said they were unpersuaded that the trial court’s damages findings are in any way erroneous, and let the amounts for damages he claimed stand. Justices did, however agree that the statute had been applied incorrectly on the attorney fees, and reduced that award from $20,000 to $1,433.18.