Craig J. Anderson. From Press Herald. Posted on July 28, 2016. Original article.
Two creditors in the failed bankruptcy of Harvest Hill Farms in Mechanic Falls, where a Halloween-themed hayride crashed and killed a teenager in 2014, have purchased the farm in a foreclosure auction.
The joint mortgage holders on the property, E-Layne Moulders Corp. and Jaspan Schlesinger LLP, purchased the property at auction for $1 million, said their attorney, Andrew Sparks of Drummond & Drummond in Portland. There were no other bidders, he said.
“Technically, in a foreclosure, they had to bid on the property,” Sparks said, even though no money changed hands. E-Layne and Jaspan, both of Long Island, New York, each own 50 percent of the property. There were owed about $1.3 million total in outstanding mortgage debt, he said.
The court added that Chapter 11 cases are intended to rehabilitate a bankrupt business, and that there did not appear to be any real prospects of returning Harvest Hill to a viable state.
Andover appealed the dismissal in an attempt to forestall the foreclosure sale, but on Wednesday, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Appellate Panel for the First Circuit upheld the court’s dismissal.
In July 2015, an Androscoggin County grand jury issued manslaughter and other charges against the farm, where a hayride flipped over in October 2014, killing 17-year-old Cassidy Charette of Oakland and injuring more than 20 others.
The driver of the hayride, David Brown, was indicted on a misdemeanor charge of reckless conduct. The grand jury also returned a misdemeanor indictment of reckless conduct against Phillip Theberge, the mechanic for Harvest Hill. No charges were brought against Bolduc.
Still, the indictment against Harvest Hill charged manslaughter, aggravated assault, driving to endanger and reckless conduct and sought a fine of up to $100,000. Maine law allows for criminal charges to be brought against an organization. The criminal case is still pending.
Randy Charette, the father of Cassidy Charette, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner of the farm and two of his employees.
The lawsuit alleges that Bolduc and two employees, David Brown and Philip Theberge, knew or should have known that the brakes were defective on the Jeep towing the trailer on which Charette and more than 20 others were seated, and that the Jeep was operating beyond its towing capacity of roughly 2,000 pounds. The weight of the wagon and passengers was estimated to be roughly 5,400 pounds when the wagon tipped over during a downhill portion of the hayride, according to the lawsuit.
The family is suing for an unspecified amount of damages, based on the pre-death, conscious suffering they allege Charette experienced. The Charettes have said that any proceeds from the lawsuit would go to a charitable foundation established in their daughter’s name.
Andover’s July 2015 petition for bankruptcy stated that the business had assets between $1 million and $10 million and liabilities between $1 million and $10 million, owed to fewer than 50 creditors.
A form listing the top 20 unsecured claims included just three names: Peter Anderson, Penny Smith and a minor child in the care of Penny Smith. It identified them as individual personal injury claims, though the filing listed the amount of each claim as “unknown.”
Other claims are pending, but civil litigation is frequently delayed while criminal proceedings are underway.
It is not clear how much insurance coverage Harvest Hill carried, but the judge in the bankruptcy case indicated that the farm’s insurance would be sufficient to cover the personal injury claims.