Attorneys representing a Bowling Green feed mill owner and a former city electrical inspector delivered arguments before a judge in a legal dispute that has persisted for 12 years.
Warren Circuit Judge John Grise said at the end of Tuesday’s hearing that he would likely rule within 60 days on the issue of whether then-city inspector Rick Maxwell intentionally acted in bad faith with Don Lowe of Lowe’s Feed and Grain after a 2002 power outage shut down his mill.
Lowe’s mill remained without power for 17 months following a storm and his attorney, Chuck Greenwell, has maintained that Maxwell misrepresented to Lowe what caused the outage to occur and did not notify Lowe in a timely fashion about what needed to happen for electricity to be restored.
Maxwell and the city were sued in 2007 by Lowe, and a jury verdict in favor of Lowe and a subsequent judgment by Grise were both overturned on appeal.
Greenwell and Maxwell’s attorney, Shawn Rosso Alcott, made oral arguments Tuesday on the issue of whether Maxwell acted in subjective bad faith in his dealings with Lowe.
Greenwell said the evidence shows Maxwell was “deliberately indifferent” to the consequences of the outage at the feed mill, citing prior testimony that Maxwell informed Lowe the morning after the outage that the mill was in violation of electrical codes and suggested that Lowe should rebuild the entire mill.
Maxwell left without informing Lowe what he should do to get his power restored, and Lowe’s subsequent efforts to find out from the city what steps he should take to restore the electricity got nowhere, leading him to retain a lawyer a month after the outage, according to court filings.
A condemnation order for the demolition of the mill was issued in October 2002, which Lowe appealed, and in a January 2003 meeting at the mill with Maxwell, Lowe learned that the wiring at the business satisfied electrical codes, and the necessary work to get power restored was relatively minor, Greenwell said.
A new breaker and a couple of light fixtures were installed, and a new conduit connecting the breaker to the mill’s existing wiring was put into place, and the mill reopened after an inspection by Maxwell.
“This is a case not of an isolated event, but a continuing scheme of deceit, misrepresentation, oppression and malice,” Greenwell said.
Alcott said no evidence shows Maxwell was motivated by any personal dislike for Lowe.
Rather, Maxwell previously testified he was concerned about safety at the facility, the employees there and neighboring properties.
“He thought there was so much risk involved, he took the action he felt was appropriate,” Alcott said of Maxwell.
In court filings, Alcott maintained Maxwell responded promptly to any questions from contractors about the restoration job and completed the inspection that led to restoration of power soon after the electrical work was finished.
Greenwell countered that the five months between the outage and when Lowe sought a permit to repair the electrical system crippled his business, causing a delay that could have been avoided if Maxwell had been more transparent with Lowe immediately after the outage.