Maine Superior Court Justice Denies Wind Power Companies’ Motions to Overturn $13.6 Million Jury Verdict in Favor of Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative
PORTLAND, Maine — Maine Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy today denied motions filed by First Wind Holdings, LLC, and its four subsidiaries, in response to the recent verdict in favor of the Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative. The Cooperative’s lead trial counsel, Sigmund Schutz, said, “With her decision, Justice Murphy has upheld the jury’s verdict that the defendants had acted in bad faith.”
The Court ruled “the jury could reasonably find that Defendants failed to act honestly and observe reasonable commercial standards of fair dealing in its negotiations with EMEC by continuing to insist that EMEC complete an impossible task . . . .”
In November 2016, a Bangor, Maine jury found that the five wind power companies breached their contractual obligation to negotiate in good faith and returned a $13.6 million verdict in favor of the Cooperative. The verdict was among the largest jury verdicts ever awarded in Maine.
Justice Murphy upheld the damages award of $13,604,400 today, concluding that “the jury could also reasonably find that EMEC had proven its damages to a reasonable certainty. . . . The jury’s award was not excessive.”
The Cooperative, represented by Sig Schutz, Joe Donahue, and Ben Piper of the law firm Preti Flaherty, LLP, entered into a contract in 2011 with First Wind Holdings, LLC and four of its former subsidiaries to buy a 12.54 mile section of electric transmission line. The wind farms agreed to take transmission service over the line and pay the Cooperative for the service.
The parties also agreed that the wind farms would pay for costs, including repairs and upgrades to the line, which is standard electric utility practice across the country. However, the wind power companies failed to act in good faith and refused to sell the transmission line or pay EMEC as they had agreed.
The Cooperative filed a lawsuit in October 2014 in the Penobscot County (Maine) Superior Court; the lawsuit was later transferred to the Maine Business & Consumer Court. The unanimous verdict against the defendants, First Wind Holdings, LLC, which is now owned by SunEdison, and the four former subsidiaries, which are now owned by TerraForm Power, Inc. (NASDAQ: TERP), was reached last fall after about two hours of deliberations. In the months following the verdict, the defendants filed motions with the Maine Superior Court including a motion to determine whether there were grounds for the Court to order a new trial.
“We are extremely pleased with this decision by the Superior Court,” said the Cooperative’s CEO, Scott Hallowell following the Court’s order denying the motions. “The jury got it right. We will vigorously defend the jury’s verdict in any appeal.”
Defendants have 21 days to file an appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.