A legal dispute between Bowling Green business Lowe’s Feed and Grain and former Bowling Green city inspector Rick Maxwell that dates back to 2002 will get another day in court.
Warren Circuit Judge John Grise will hold a bench trial at 12:30 p.m. Nov. 26, with the main issue being whether Maxwell acted in what’s called “subjective bad faith” in his dealings with feed mill owner Don Lowe in relation to 2002 code violations and a power outage that shut down Lowe’s business for 17 months.
Grise decided to hold a bench trial after both parties submitted briefs arguing for either a bench trial or a jury trial.
Lowe sued Maxwell and the city of Bowling Green in 2007, and a Warren County jury in 2012 awarded him $850,000 in compensatory damages and $120,000 in punitive damages.
That verdict was overturned by the Kentucky Court of Appeals, which ruled the city had legal immunity and was effectively shielded from liability and also eliminated the punitive damages. The case was remanded back to circuit court.
Grise found in 2016 that Lowe’s due process rights were violated by Maxwell’s failure to promptly notify Lowe “in writing, as soon as possible of the specific code violations at the building and how to remedy them,” and restored the $850,000 verdict against Maxwell.
Last year, the state appeals court reversed that decision and again remanded the case back to the circuit court.
Grise directed the two parties to attempt to resolve the dispute in mediation, but mediator Henry L. Stephens was unable to get the two sides to compromise.
Now, in what Lowe’s attorney Charles Greenwell hopes will be a final resolution of a case he has been involved with for 12 years, Grise will be responsible for ruling on evidence that Maxwell did or did not act in bad faith.
Greenwell, who supported a bench trial in his brief, was encouraged to see one scheduled. “It has been seven years since the original jury verdict,” Greenwell said. “There was absolutely nothing wrong with that verdict.”
Lowe’s attorney contends his client is entitled to the $850,000 awarded in 2012, plus interest.
“The judge has to appreciate the fact that the jury in the original trial came back with punitive damages,” Greenwell said. “They found clear and convincing evidence of malice.
“We have a case where the judge and the jury are on the same page. It’s hard to imagine the judge would all of a sudden reverse himself.”
Maxwell, who is represented by attorney Tom Kerrick, has argued that Lowe hasn’t provided any evidence supporting the claims of bad faith.
The dispute started in 2002, when Maxwell concluded the feed mill was unsafe because of multiple electrical code violations. He ordered that electricity not be restored until the building was brought into compliance.
Lowe has contended that Maxwell withheld accurate information about the repairs needed to bring the feed mill into compliance.
Greenwell said his client wants the case resolved so he can continue operating the family-owned business.
“I’ve never seen a case where justice was delayed so long,” the attorney said. “As crippled as his company was (after the 17-month shutdown), he’s still in business today. He’s intent on salvaging the family-owned company. He’s determined to see this through.”
– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.