Timber Trespass

Timber Trespass: A Case History
This timeline was published along with the article on the previous page in the May/June 2000 Massachusetts Woodland Steward.

June 1996:   Plaintiff discovered that trees had been cut on his property during the winter prior to this discovery.  He had not been notified of the intent to cut (as required by law in Massachusetts) by the abutter whose timber had been cut at the same time.

January 1997:  Plaintiff hired an attorney to investigate the potential for a suit against the parties responsible for the timber trespass.

February 1997:  Plaintiff's attorney contacted a surveyor to locate and flag boundaries from an old survey, and to update the old survey.

February 1998:  After receipt of the updated survey, plaintiff's attorney contacted a consulting forester to estimate the volume and value of trees cut, which were subsequently tallied at over 30 Mbf and appraised at over $14,000 in a written report.

March 1998:  Plaintiff's attorney sent a demand letter to the sawmill owner who filed the (state required) forest cutting plan, a contract logger who worked for the mill, and the abutting landowner--for triple damages plus expenses, as allowed by law for cases where boundaries are clearly marked.  The state service forester who had assisted the mill owner in preparing the forest cutting plan was not named in this letter (or in subsequent legal action).

May 1998:  Defendants wrote a letter to the plaintiff denying that any trees had been cut on his property, and demanding that the plaintiff stay off their property.

June 1999:  When the defendants failed to respond to the demand letter, a default judgement was entered against them by the court.

August 1999:  Interrogatories were submitted by attorneys representing the plaintiff and the defendants, and responded to by the plaintiff and the defendants.  The latter admitted that trees had been cut on the plaintiff's property after all, and calculated their volume and value at just under 10 Mbf and just over $800.

September 1999:  A court hearing date was set, but the hearing did not go forward because the defendants had not hired a consulting forester to properly estimate volumes and values cut.

December 1999:  Defendants' consulting forester submitted a report critiquing the plaintiff's forester's report and finding just over 25 Mbf cut worth just under $6,000.

January 2000:  Plaintiff's consulting forester submitted a detailed written critique of defendants' forester's report, and held to his original estimate of 30 Mbf worth $14,000.

February 2000:  Defendants' consulting forester wrote a letter in response to the plaintiff's forester's critique, and held to his original estimate of 25 Mbf worth $6,000, and suggested names of other consulting foresters to arbitrate the disputed volumes and values.

March 2000:  Plaintiff's lawyer and consulting forester rejected the proposal for arbitration and scheduled the case for trial.

March 2000:  Defendants' attorney made initial offer of $15,000 to settle the case, then $18,000 when that offer was rejected, then finally $25,000 to cover all legal, surveyor and consulting forester fees, plus some compensation to the plaintiff for distress.

March 2000:  This offer was accepted because, although the plaintiff's boundaries had old blazes and pins at the corners, and some flagging along the lines, there was a question as to whether the judge would rule that this constitued clear marking of boundaries and therefore required payment of triple damages.