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Brown County logging damages award stands

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A landowner’s award of $55,572.50 in damages caused by a logging contractor at a property in Brown County was properly calculated, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

Greenwood resident Ruth Sheek was alerted by neighbors near her second home – a lakefront cabin on 53 wooded acres in Brown County – that she needed to come see damage done by a logging contractor she had hired to harvest mature trees. Sheek arrived to find a deeply rutted staging area, damaged standing trees, discarded treetops and trunks, and debris that blocked access to the water.

Upset, she ordered the workers to leave, but they didn’t until a few months after her lawyer sent them a cease-and-desist letter. She sued for breach of contract and the logging firm countersued, claiming it was improperly barred from harvesting the timber Sheek allowed it to take.

Sheek claimed she thought her property was worth $500,000 before the damages and $100,000 afterward, but a panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that Brown Circuit Judge Judith Stewart properly found the damages in Ruth Sheek v. Mark A Morin Logging, Inc.,  07A01-1211-PL-509.

Stewart arrived at the damages award using the estimate of a real estate appraiser who said cost of remediation was about $75,000. Stewart added $5,000 to restore a stone path to the lake, then subtracted $20,427.50 in remediation costs the logging firm performed and $4,000 for the value of trees Morin Logging Co. was unable to harvest.

“Because the evidence shows that damages still remained to Ruth’s property after (a subcontractor’s) remediation work, it was reasonable for the trial court to subtract the amount … spent on remediation from the $75,000 estimate to determine the amount that Morin Logging still owed,” Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote for the court.

“The trial court’s damage award is supported by the evidence,” she concluded.      
 

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