BANGOR, Maine — A jury will decide if attorneys at a local law firm were negligent in negotiating the sale of three Hancock County campgrounds or if the former owner understood the terms of the deal from the start.
A trial in the lawsuit Patty Rae Stanley of Memphis , Tenn., filed against Bangor attorneys Daniel G. McKay and Sarah S. Zmistowski and Eaton Peabody, the law firm for which they work, began Wednesday in U.S. District Court.
Stanley claims her properties were worth $13.5 million, twice what she received for them. Her former attorneys have said in court documents that the campgrounds were worth the $6.75 million Stanley was paid for them.
The 70-year-old widow is seeking a total of $7.75 million in damages, which includes interest and legal fees. She has claimed that her lawyers did not follow professional standards in drawing up her sale agreement with Equity Lifestyle Properties Inc. of Chicago or protect her interests.
The attorneys claim they and the firm properly represented Stanley and that she understood the terms of the sale.
The former owner of Mount Desert Narrows Campground in Bar Harbor, Mount Desert Narrows Too Campground in Trenton and Patten Pond Campgrounds in Ellsworth sued her former attorneys and the law firm in August 2010. The lawsuit was filed in federal court because Stanley lives out of state and is seeking more than $75,000 in damages.
Stanley believed she would receive half the sale price of the campgrounds at the closing in April 2005 and the remaining half several years later when the firm would buy out her interest, her attorney, Michael Waxman of Portland, told the jury of two men and six women. Part of the deal allowed Stanley to stay on and manage the campgrounds, he said.
Defense attorney Peter Rubin of Portland told jurors that Stanley was “a pretty savvy, sophisticated businesswoman” who knew the value of her properties. He said that Stanley would only have received more than the $6.75 million sale price of the properties if business had increased while she was manager for the Chicago firm.
Rubin described the three summers after the sale in 2005, 2006 and 2007 as “disastrous” because of rain and rising gasoline prices. Business in each of those years was less than it was in 2004, when Equity Lifestyle Properties began negotiating the sale. That is why Stanley received no additional money when in the fall of 2007 her management relationship soured with the Chicago firm and she left their employ, Rubin said.
The trial is scheduled to take between six and eight days to complete.
Editor’s Note: Attorneys with Eaton Peabody represent the Bangor Daily News.