The town of Winthrop got a replacement truck when a brand new 2012 Ford 550 plow truck burned up in January 2012, its first day on the job.
Its insurer, Maine Municipal Association, then sought to recoup its money from three companies that sold or worked on the truck, suing the companies in the name of the town.
On Wednesday, that lawsuit ended, with a judge granting summary judgment on behalf of the lone remaining defendant Bailey Brothers Inc., of Livermore Falls.
The vehicle was bought as a cab and chassis from Bailey Brothers in July 2011, and had been outfitted at a different site over a number of months as a plow truck.
Two other firms involved with the truck, H.P. Fairfield in Skowhegan and Hight Ford, each paid $19,000 to settle claims against them, leaving Bailey Brothers as the lone defendant.
The lawsuit alleged breaches of contract and warranty, among other things.
Pleadings filed by Kelly Hoffman, one of two attorneys representing the town and its insurer, said the total loss was $63,824, so Winthrop sought $25,824 from the Livermore Falls firm.
Bailey Brothers, however, won its motion for summary judgment essentially ending the 2012 lawsuit in Kennebec County Superior Court.
Justice Michaela Murphy issued the order on Tuesday.
Madeline Malisa, the attorney representing Bailey Brothers, said, “We think the judge issued the correct decision according to the facts of the case. The truck underwent and passed a road test and state inspection, and after it left Bailey Brothers, it underwent significant mechanical electrical and hydraulic alterations to outfit it into a snowplow and road maintenance vehicle. There was simply no evidence a defect existed at the time of the sale.”
Jonathan Brogan, another attorney representing the town’s insurer, said Wednesday, “The town has a truck that burned up that shouldn’t have burned up. We felt Bailey Brothers had some responsibility. The court disagreed.”
He said it hasn’t been decided whether there would be an appeal of Murphy’s ruling.
“The town is insured for these issues,” he said. “Clearly some entity was responsible for this truck burning up, but it wasn’t the town.”
Murphy denied all the town’s claims in the lawsuit, saying, “(The town) cannot establish any causal link between the alleged defects at the time of the sale of the truck, i.e., absence of the splashguards and proper support for the dump body, and the fire that destroyed the truck … the only evidence in the record on the issue of causation is the testimony of plaintiff’s expert, Thomas A. Bush, who was unable to determine what caused the fire to any degree of scientific certainty.”
Other information in the court files showed the town paid $40,510 for the truck and received $11,000 for a trade in the purchase contract with Bailey Brothers.
H.P. Fairfield’s bill for converting the truck to a snow plow and road maintenance vehicle was just under $50,000.
A series of electrical problems arose with the vehicle, and some repairs were done by Hight Ford.
The fire started on the truck’s first run, 14 hours after it arrived in town, as the driver plowed on Birch Street.
At the time, Winthrop Fire Chief Dan Brooks said, “By the time he came to the bottom, he had smoke coming into the cab. The driver jumped out and could see fire coming from under the hood. By the time we got there, the cab was totally destroyed.”
No one was injured. At the time, Brooks said the external plow equipment and the dump body appeared to be spared.