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April 18, 2017

Superior court justice upholds $13.6M verdict against wind power firms

Maine Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy on Friday denied motions filed by First Wind Holdings LLC and its four subsidiaries in response to last fall's $13.6 million verdict in favor of the Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative.

In a news release announcing the decision, the cooperative's lead trial lawyer, Sigmund Schutz of the Preti Flaherty LLP law firm, said Murphy "upheld the jury's verdict that the defendants [First Wind] had acted in bad faith."

Friday's ruling upholds the November 2016 verdict by a Bangor jury awarding $13.6 million to the cooperative, after finding that First Wind and four of its former subsidiaries breached their contractual obligation to negotiate in good faith a 2011 contract to sell a 12.54-mile section of an electricity transmission line to the cooperative.

According to Preti Flaherty, the cooperative filed a lawsuit in Penobscot Superior Court in October 2014 after First Wind and its subsidiaries refused to sell the transmission line and pay for costs that had been outlined in the 2011 sales contract.

The lawsuit subsequently moved to the U.S. District Court in Bangor and then was transferred to the Maine Business and Consumer Court.

Last November's unanimous verdict against the defendants, First Wind Holdings LLC, which is now owned by SunEdison, and the four former subsidiaries, which are now owned by TerraForm Power Inc. (NASDAQ: TERP), was reached last fall after about two hours of deliberations, according to Preti Flaherty's news release.

The $13.6 million jury verdict was one of the largest ever awarded in Maine, according to the law firm.

In upholding the verdict, Preti Flaherty stated that Murphy concluded "the jury could also reasonably find that Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative" had proven its damages to a reasonable certainty … The jury's award was not excessive."

"We are extremely pleased with this decision by the Superior Court," Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative CEO Scott Hallowell said in a statement following the court's ruling. "The jury got it right. We will vigorously defend the jury's verdict in any appeal."

Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative is a consumer-owned electric utility headquartered in Calais serving 12,500 consumers in portions of Washington, Penobscot and Aroostook counties.

Defendants have 21 days to file an appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

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