May 23, 2019

State’s high court to hear BIW case 6 ex-workers sued because they were laid off 3 months after being hired

BATH – Six former Bath Iron Works employees who unsuccessfully sued the shipbuilder for alleged fraudulent misrepresentation are taking their case to Maine’s highest court.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court is expected to hear the appeal next month on whether Superior Court Justice Ellen Gorman erred when she ruled against the workers, according to court clerk James Chute.

Peter Rand of Greene, Jeffrey Holt of Richmond, Michael Lajoie and Clinton Mason, both of Gardiner, Adam Towers of Belgrade, and Garry Appleby of Haverill, Mass., said they gave up full-time employment in late 1995 to take what they thought were full-time jobs at BIW as pipefitters or electricians.

They said company and union representatives assured them there was enough work at the shipyard to keep them working through 2000. Instead, the men were laid off three months later, along with 94 other union workers and about 200 salaried employees.

Their suit, which was originally filed in federal court in 1999 and alleged fraudulent misrepresentation and negligence on the part of BIW, was dismissed last year following a seven-day trial.

Jed Davis, the attorney representing the men, claimed BIW hired the men with the intention to use them to fill a staffing shortfall. He said he is optimistic about the appeal.

“The Superior Court decision was very poorly reasoned,” he said.

The U.S. District Court threw out Davis’ allegation of breach of contract and turned the remaining allegations over to Superior Court. Gorman dismissed the workers’ claim in December following a trial last September in Sagadahoc County Superior Court in Bath.

In her decision, Gorman wrote that she was not convinced that BIW misrepresented the nature of the jobs that were offered the men.

“With the flux in production work orders, post delivery repair or change-order requests, and weekly or even daily mismatches between work schedules and available employees, it is not possible to make an educated guess about the shipyard’s [employment] needs more than 90 days in the future,” Gorman wrote.

Christopher Nyhan, BIW’s Portland-based attorney, said no employer can guarantee job security to a newly hired employee, and that Gorman’s decision vindicated BIW on the allegation of fraud.

“This company prides itself on being as open and as candid as it can be with job applicants,” Nyhan said. “We always hate to lay off people, but it’s much worse when people accuse us of lying.”

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