It has always been the opinion of this newspaper that Lowe’s Feed and Grain owner Don Lowe got a raw deal from the city of Bowling Green when his business was unnecessarily shut down in 2002.
The nightmare for Lowe began that year, when then-city electrical inspector Rick Maxwell ordered the power to the mill to be shut down following a storm. Lowe’s remained without power for 17 months and during that time, Lowe – a third-generation businessman there – lost a lot of his customers.
Lowe has contended that Maxwell didn’t notify him in a timely fashion about what needed to be done to get his power restored.
We believe Lowe that Maxwell acted in bad faith in his reckless actions and in doing so put a good man and and his family out of business for nearly two years.
This is obviously very unacceptable.
Lowe sued Maxwell and the city in 2007, and in 2012 a jury unanimously sided with Lowe, awarding him $850,000 in compensatory damages and $120,000 in punitive damages in Warren Circuit Judge John Grise’s courtroom.
Three years later in 2015, the Kentucky Court of Appeals overturned the verdict against the city, eliminating the punitive damages and ruling that the city has legal immunity and is effectively shielded from liability. The remainder of the case against Maxwell was remanded back to circuit court.
Grise in February 2016 reinstated the $850,000 verdict against Maxwell for willfully delaying the process by which Lowe could regain electrical power and determining that Maxwell was not entitled to qualified official immunity from liability. Grise’s ruling in favor of Lowe said Maxwell should have known that delaying the process by which the mill could regain power was a violation of Lowe’s rights.
Grise further stated that Maxwell should’ve notified Lowe in writing as soon as possible not weeks or months later of the specific code violations, describing each defective condition and the repairs needed to get it into compliance or get power restored as well as Lowe’s right and process for appeal.
We couldn’t agree more with the original jury verdict and with Grise’s 2016 ruling. It is quite clear that Maxwell violated Lowe’s rights and in doing so shut down his business for nearly two years.
After one jury verdict and a well-respected circuit judge’s ruling, one would think the parties involved would realize that Maxwell was in the wrong and allow Lowe to be paid what he rightfully deserves. But instead, after Maxwell appealed Grise’s 2016 ruling, the court of appeals overturned Grise in 2018 and sent the case back to his court to be resolved yet again.
Grise ordered mediation for both parties to try to settle the case out of court, but no progress was made. Now the case is back in Grise’s court, where he heard arguments from both sides Tuesday and is expected to make a ruling in the case in about 60 days.
We have full confidence in Judge Grise and are hopeful that he will once again rule in Lowe’s favor. If he does, the parties involved need to respect Grise’s ruling and pay this good man what he is rightfully owed.
Although the city of Bowling Green is no longer a party to this lawsuit, it should not be forgotten that the city spent eight years and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars fighting Lowe’s claim and stonewalling him on receiving payment. Had the city simply accepted the jury’s original verdict, as we believe it should have done, perhaps Lowe would have received his money long ago. Instead, after 17 long years, the situation remains unsettled.
That’s why it is important to consider, if Grise rules in Lowe’s favor and the ruling is yet again appealed, what message is being sent to people who still have faith in the judicial system. What if other people are in similar circumstances as Lowe and are considering going to court over a legitimate lawsuit, but are afraid to do so because they feel there will never be an end in sight?
Not a good one.
Simply put, the continued delays – whether by the city of Bowling Green or by Maxwell – in paying Lowe what is owed to him erodes others’ faith in our judicial system, and that is a real shame.
For the past 17 years, Lowe has literally experienced a nightmare that not many of us can imagine. A jury of his peers unanimously believed him and Judge Grise believed him. Again, we are hopeful that Judge Grise rules in Lowe’s favor and he is finally paid what he is rightfully owed.