PARIS – By an 8-1 vote early Thursday morning, jurors ruled that Camden National Bank breached its loan contract with a former Mt. Abram Ski Resort owner.

Then, all nine jurors – six women and three men – awarded $1.5 million in damages to the plaintiffs, Steamship Navigation Corp. and its officers Randy and Kathleen Dunican.

“In accordance with the jury’s verdict, it is hereby ordered that judgment is entered for the plaintiffs in the sum of $1,500,000, plus interest and costs against the defendant,” said Judge Thomas E. Delahanty in Oxford County Superior Court in Paris.

The verdict came about 9 a.m., just 35 minutes into the jury’s second day of deliberations. Jurors deliberated Wednesday for three-and-a-half hours before adjourning for the day.

“Overall, we’re very pleased,” said Portland lawyer Daniel G. Lilley, who represented the Dunicans and Steamship.

“This verdict sends a message to banks that they have to treat people fairly, and if they don’t, they will have to pay the consequences.”

Camden National Bank lawyer Peter J. DeTroy in Portland said, “We’re disappointed given what the evidence was that they had. The bank felt strongly in this case that both the claim and the amount that (the Dunicans) were seeking was outlandish.”

But, DeTroy said, bank officials were heartened that jurors only awarded the plaintiffs less than half the $3.5 million amount in damages that Lilley requested Wednesday morning in his closing argument.

“The practical fact is that this is essentially a wash. The next step is an appeal, and the bank will consider its options,” DeTroy said.

Lilley said he expected the bank to appeal the verdict.

“If they appeal, we’ll cross-appeal. I think we have more issues on appeal than they do,” he said.

Lilley said that he believes jurors arrived at the $1.5 million award by subtracting the mortgages ($2 million) from the total value of Steamship’s foreclosed-on properties, which were worth $3.2 million. With appreciated real estate, it was $3.5 million.

“Unfortunately, they were not supposed to subtract the mortgages, because that was the subject of a foreclosure hearing that’s already been litigated,” Lilley said.

“But this was never about the money for Randy Dunican,” he added.

“It was about getting his name cleared, and getting his reputation back, and showing in a court of law that he wasn’t the bad guy; it was the bank.”

The Dunicans, who arrived in the courtroom five minutes before the verdict did, were unavailable for comment after the trial ended. It began on Sept. 13.

According to the verdict, jurors were asked to determine, by a preponderance of evidence, the existence of either an oral or written contract between Steamship and Camden National Bank, for a loan for snow-making equipment.

The lawsuit claimed that the bank verbally agreed to loan the Dunicans $300,000 so they could increase the snow-making capacity at Steamship’s Mt. Abram Ski Area in Greenwood. Bank officials denied that such a promise was made.

But, after reviewing the reams of submitted evidence, jurors voted 8-1 that such a promise existed.

Jurors also had to decide if the bank had breached the terms of the contract, and that the breach was a proximate cause of economic damages incurred by Steamship. Another 8-1 vote settled that.

According to the suit, Steamship and the Dunicans became financially destitute in late 2000 and early 2001 when the Camden bank foreclosed on the ski resort and other properties, all of which the bank had, in 1998, appraised at $3.5 million.

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