May 15, 2014CONCORD — Following months of pretrial motions and depositions and seven days of trial in U.S. District Court in Concord, a jury decided in favor of the Town of Wolfeboro on all seven of the charges made in its suit against Wright-Pierce Engineers.
The town sued the Maine engineering firm after the Rapid Infiltration Basin effluent disposal system it engineered developed structural problems and failed to provide the promised disposal capacity.
The following is the statement issued by the town through Board of Selectmen Chairman Linda Murray on the outcome of the trial in the United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire, Town of Wolfeboro v. Wright-Pierce, Inc.
"The Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen and the Town Administration are pleased with the Jury's unanimous decision in the case of Town of Wolfeboro v. Wright-Pierce, Inc. On Friday, May 9, 2014, the Jury returned the following verdicts:
"1. Claim One – Professional Negligence: The Jury found that the Town of Wolfeboro had proved its claim of professional negligence against Wright-Pierce by a preponderance of the evidence.
"2. Claim Two – Breach of Contract: The Jury found that the Town of Wolfeboro had proved its claim of breach of contract against Wright-Pierce by a preponderance of the evidence.
"3. Claim Three – Negligent Misrepresentation: The Jury found that the Town of Wolfeboro had proved its claim of negligent misrepresentation against Wright-Pierce by a preponderance of the evidence.
"4. Claim Four – Fraudulent Misrepresentation: The Jury found that the Town of Wolfeboro had proved its claim of fraudulent misrepresentation against Wright-Pierce by clear and convincing evidence.
"5. Claim Five – Consumer Protection Act: The Jury found that the Town of Wolfeboro had proved its claim under the Consumer Protection Act against Wright-Pierce by a preponderance of the evidence.
"Note: The Judge determines if the award on count 5 is double or triple damages and may also award attorney's fees.
"6. Jury found by a preponderance of the evidence that the Town of Wolfeboro had proved that Wright-Pierce willfully or knowingly engaged in unfair or deceptive acts or practices.
"7. Compensatory Damages: The Jury awarded the Town of Wolfeboro damages in the amount of Six Million Seven Hundred Ninety Five Thousand Dollars ($6,795,000).
"On May 12, Judge [Joseph A.] DiClerico denied Wright-Pierce's motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50 (a) challenging the Jury's findings. The Judge stated that 'there was a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to support each of Wolfeboro's claims at the close of all of the evidence.'
As noted in the statement, under Claim Five, it is up to the judge to determine whether to award double or triple damages – which would be $13,590,000 or $20,385,000 respectively – under New Hampshire's Consumer Protection Act, as well as the town's attorney fees and expenses incurred in bringing the suit.
Wright-Pierce can also appeal the jury verdict and any double or triple damages the judge may determine, so the legal process is not necessarily finished, but it is hard to see how a unanimous finding on all counts would be substantially reversed on appeal.
Even after the case is settled, Wolfeboro still has to develop and implement another effluent disposal system to take the place of the current system.