The city of Eastport has won a summary judgment in court against a Canadian boat manufacturer, six years after it hailed the company as a desired employer that was expected to create up to 50 local jobs.
The April 12 ruling in the state’s business court against Millennium Marine, based in Escuminac, New Brunswick, stems from a lawsuit the boat builder filed against Eastport and its officials over a fire at a former mill owned by the city.
For roughly 5 years, from the fall of 2013 to the summer of 2017, Millennium Marine rented space in the mill that it used to manufacture boats. The firm alleged that the city failed to make timely repairs to the rented area after a fire broke out in July 2014 damaging the space and destroying a boat under construction.
The firm sought $226,662 in damages and claimed to have suffered losses of $430,000 in lost sales because of the fire, according to a 2016 story in the weekly Quoddy Tides newspaper.
In response, city officials claimed Millennium Marine owed Eastport tens of thousands of dollars in back rent and sought to evict the company from the mill. As part of a subsequent agreement with the city, the company vacated the property in June 2017.
Judge Michael Duddy ruled that the company’s allegations against the city and its current and former officials over the fire fallout and the rent dispute amounted to a tort claim — or a civil allegation of wrongdoing — and that the Maine Tort Claims Act gives the city and its officials blanket immunity against any such claims. There are exceptions to that immunity, but none of the exceptions apply to this case, the judge ruled.
Amy Olfene, who represented the city and its officials in the case, did not respond Friday to a request for comment.
Millennium Marine CEO Cory Guimond said he expected the court to side with the city, but said a jury “would have a much different view.” He said he plans to appeal the decision.
“This is a matter of serving justice over the corruption of small town politics,” Guimond said. “The only losers [in the case] are the 30 to 50 Mainers that do not have a job today.”
Ross Argir, Eastport’s city manager, said Friday that a separate countersuit filed by the city against Millennium Marine over the unpaid rent is still pending and is not affected by the summary judgement ruling. He said the city is trying to recoup $43,200 that the boat company still owes in rent.
“I’m happy to see [Millennium Marine’s] lawsuit has been resolved and that the city can move forward,” Argir said Friday.
Dennis Mahar, a Calais attorney representing the city in the countersuit, said Friday that Eastport also is trying to recoup other expenses that it says the company still owes the city. Millennium Marine left behind some damage and mess when it moved out of the mill, in violation of the terms of its lease, he said, and it owes money on personal property taxes as well.
In all, Eastport maintains that the boat company still owes the city more than $83,000, according to Mahar.