PORTLAND (AP) – A federal jury on Friday awarded Bookland of Maine nearly $6.7 million in the now-defunct bookstore chain’s lawsuit against its former accounting firm.

The jury found that the Portland firm of Baker Newman & Noyes was negligent in reviewing Bookland’s financial statements, triggering a chain of events that led to Bookland’s demise.

An attorney for Baker Newman & Noyes said he would ask the judge to set aside the verdict because the jury didn’t follow his instructions when granting the award.

Bookland attorneys told jurors that Baker Newman & Noyes initially calculated that Bookland had made a profit in 1997 and 1998. The jury was told that Bookland owner David Turitz relied on the financial reports when he decided to expand and invest in new warehouses and offices.

By the time the errors were discovered in late 1999, Bookland was faced with a shortage of cash to meet its obligations. It went into bankruptcy in the spring of 2000, sold its assets and went out business.

Bookland was once the state’s largest bookstore chain with 13 stores in Maine and New Hampshire.

“The hundreds of thousands of dollars of accounting errors should have been found by the reviewing and supervising accountants when they reviewed the financial statements and then communicated to David Turitz,” said attorney Robert Keach. “They had assured Bookland they would tell them if and when they found any errors at all.”

Peter Culley, a Portland attorney representing Baker Newman & Noyes, said jurors did not follow U.S. District Judge D. Brock Hornby’s directions in setting the amount of the award.

Culley said Hornby told the jury it could award damages that were the equivalent of the net worth of Bookland. The $6.7 million verdict, he said, is at least 12 times the net worth of the company.

“Clearly it’s an excessive award and should be set aside,” Culley said.

Keach said Turitz wanted to use the award to repay creditors who were not paid during Bookland’s bankruptcy proceedings.

AP-ES-04-04-03 1606EST

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