Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Judge reschedules McKinstry trial

Attorneys given additional 6 months to put cases together


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Judge Robert J. Elgee

    Blaine County 5th District Judge Robert Elgee gave attorneys for the Blaine County School District and McKinstry Essention an additional six months to put their court cases together by rescheduling a jury trial between the parties that had been set to start Oct. 15.
    The trial is now set to begin on April 8, 2014, and is expected to last 25 days.
    Elgee’s ruling came during a telephonic hearing Monday afternoon with attorneys of the litigants. Both parties agreed that the trial should be continued, though School District attorneys told the judge they would prefer a trial date in January. Christopher Burke, with the Boise firm of Greener, Burke, Shoemaker, said the district was advocating that to avoid mounting legal costs.
    McKinstry attorney Paul R. Cressman argued that more time is needed “so that everything can come to trial.”
    “This is an extremely complex trial,” Cressman said. “We don’t know what additional depositions need to be taken. What complicates the trial even further is the district’s claim for punitive damages because we’re going to oppose it. McKinstry is entitled to have time to properly prepare for trial.
    “When this trial date was first set, I don’t think we all realized the complexity and what it was going to take to get ready.”
    Elgee noted that the lawsuit is “legally and factually complex” and that attorneys were not wasting time but working “diligently” to prepare for trial.
    “I understand and appreciate those circumstances,” the judge said.
    However, Elgee said he will not continue the trial again.
    “Do not ask for any continuance of this trial date,” Elgee said. “I’m writing this down—it’s set in stone.”
    The School District and McKinstry, its former energy contractor, have been in litigation for a year. The lawsuit stems from a contract that the parties entered into in 2010 for energy savings work and other improvements at eight district schools and facilities.
    McKinstry claims that it performed work worth about $26 million and that the district still owes it about $7 million. The district claims that it authorized work worth only $18.6 million and is seeking damages against McKinstry for at least that amount.
    At Monday’s hearing, Elgee instructed the attorneys to have precise dollar amounts on its claims and evidence supporting those dollar amounts ready and disclosed to the other party at least 150 days before the start of trial.
Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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