Judge allows Copar neighbors to seek money damages

Judge allows Copar neighbors to seek money damages


WARWICK — A Superior Court judge on Monday said neighbors of the Copar Quarry could pursue a legal claim for financial damages; argue that dust, noise and vibrations constitute a form of trespassing; and add a blasting contractor as a defendant in their case against Copar, its landlord, and the town.

Associate Justice Brian Stern’s decision, which came during a hearing in Kent County Superior Court, allows the lawyers for Bradford residents Steve and Cheryl Dubois, Edward and Danielle Balbat, and Louis and Nancy Pucci, to add the additional claims and defendant to the lawsuit they filed in January 2012. Stern did not issue a decision on the new claims and asked Joelle Sylvia, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, to file supplemental papers to better specify the alleged damages and when they occurred.

Lawyers for the town, Copar, and its landlord, Westerly Granite Co. Inc., all argued against Sylvia’s motion.

The neighbors are seeking unspecified financial damages and attorney’s fees from those defendants and from Maine Drilling and Blasting Inc., saying the value of their property and their ability to enjoy it have been diminished.

Sylvia’s motions repeat the neighbors’ claims that Copar has allowed stone dust to blow onto their homes. They are also complaining of excessive noise and vibrations.

The new claims ask Stern to stop quarrying work at the Church Street facility and to require Copar and Westerly Granite to seek new approvals for their activities from the town.

In an objection filed in response to Sylvia’s motion, lawyers for Copar and Westerly Granite accused the neighbors of trying to “relitigate the case anew.” The lawyers also argued that the neighbors, in their original lawsuit, sought only that the judge stop the quarry operations. “The sole request for relief was temporary , preliminary and permanent injunctive relief. The neighbors did not seek monetary damages of any kind,” according to a motion signed by Jeffrey Gladstone, the lawyer for Copar, and Christopher Mulhearn, the lawyer for Westerly Granite.

The two companies also argued that allowing the neighbors to seek monetary damages would require a new period of discovery, forcing the companies to devote more time and money to the case.

In March 2013, Stern ruled that lawyers for the neighbors had succeeded in establishing that the neighbors would likely prevail in proving that the companies were causing a private nuisance by allowing stone dust to migrate onto their property. The judge said he was unwilling to close the quarry operation, but did order that the company abide by provisions of an earlier consent order. Those provisions included monitoring of Copar by a court-appointed lawyer who serves as special master; moving processing operations away from the neighbors; and mitigating the dust. That order expires at the end of this month.

On Monday, Gladstone called Sylvia’s motion an effort to “undermine the finality” of the settlement between the town and the two companies in parallel cases stemming from the town’s allegations of zoning violations against the companies. The neighbors were given only limited intervenor status in that case, which was resolved on Feb. 25 when Stern accepted the agreement of the parties. At that time Stern cautioned the companies, the town, and the neighbors, saying that his orders in the case heard Monday would take priority.

However, Gladstone asserted that the neighbors now were “seeking leverage to stop the finality of that resolution.” He contended that Copar has not caused a nuisance to the neighbors or the wider area beyond the neighborhood, and said he plans to introduce scientific evidence as proof.

Richard Boren, the town’s lawyer, was granted 20 days to file a response to Sylvia’s motion. Boren said Sylvia’s argument erroneously attempts to show that the town is liable for damages that the neighbors might have suffered as a result of its failure to shut down the quarry. He also questioned whether a causal connection could be drawn between the town’s decision to issue the zoning certificate Copar uses to operate and the damages that the neighbors claim to have sustained.

After the hearing, Gladstone confirmed that Samuel Cocopard is no longer part of the Copar operation. “The company is moving in a new direction without Mr. Cocopard and we’re going to be stronger as a result,” Gladstone said.

According to Gladstone, Cocopard, Copar’s former president and CEO, is no longer working for any of Copar’s affiliated companies. Randal Roberge continues to work as Copar’s chief financial officer, Gladstone said. “The operations staff who have been running the day-to-day aspects of the company, and who have done an excellent job, continue on,” Gladstone said.

Copar is reviewing all of its internal systems with an eye toward improving operations, Gladstone said.

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