After fourteen years PLWA found itself in court in Choteau Montana on June 16, 2014. The Boadle Road had been closed that long ago by a new owner even after being told that the road had been used as a public road for nearly a hundred years.
PLWA had taken the landowner to court four times and won every time. In fact, at the last trial the Montana Supreme Court had instructed the landowner to not do anything to interfere with the public easement on this Boadle Road.
He chose to ignore the court so PLWA filed a civil case against him and ask a jury of his peers to determine from the evidence presented if he has engaged in the following activities:
Violated a court order
Created a nuisance
Acted with malice
Took actions that resulted in his being subject to paying damages
If so, what would the type and amount of those damages
On the third day the jury found in favor on all counts and instructed the landowner to pay the following damages:
Damages causing the public to be unable to use the road for fourteen years; $375,000
Damages inflicted on PLWA: $25,000
Punitive Damages: $10,000
We were very satisfied with the results even though most of the $375,000 will have to pay for replacing a bridge across a canal.
One of the good results of this trial will be the precedent it sets. It might cause others to think twice before closing roads that the public have used for decades as part of the county road system.
This verdict will probably be appealed back to the Montana Supreme Court on some claim that it was conducted in an illegal manner, but for now it was quite a victory. It is hard to believe the court will overturn their own decision ?
A sad foot note to our victory is that Jim Mcdermand had represented PLWA’s early efforts to open the Boadle Road fourteen years ago. (See photo right )
Jim didn’t live to see the results of this trial. I attended his funeral just a few days before it began
But we can say to his memory, -You finally won. Jim.-