Friday, June 5, 2009

Lawsuit contends company ravaged yard with herbicide

Elkhorn resident seeks damages for alleged use of wrong chemical

Express Staff Writer

These wilting trees at a residence on Bluebell Road in Elkhorn are the subject of an $80,000 lawsuit pending in Blaine County 5th District Court. Property owner John M. Meyer alleges that Sawtooth Spraying Service negligently sprayed his trees and shrubs with herbicide rather than insecticide. Photo by Willy Cook

A Twin Falls attorney finds himself in the unusual position of suing a man whom he doesn't think is guilty.

The lawsuit involves a civil claim filed by attorney Jeffrey Hepworth on behalf of Sun Valley resident John M. Meyer, who alleges that his property was damaged in 2007 when a chemical company sprayed his trees and shrubs with herbicide instead of insecticide.

Hepworth and Meyer are also suing Sawtooth Spraying Service, the Twin Falls company that Meyer hired for the job. But the company has alleged that its spray tank was sabotaged by a man identified as Reynold P. Blunt, who allegedly had a dispute with a Sawtooth Spraying employee.

Hepworth filed the lawsuit against Sawtooth Spraying last October. He followed it up with a lawsuit filed last month against Blunt.

Hepworth said he learned of Blunt's alleged involvement when taking a deposition from Sawtooth Spraying owner Eric J. Schultz.

"It's very, very speculative, but they've made that accusation," Hepworth said.

The origin of the lawsuits dates back to June 1, 2007, when Sawtooth Spraying Service was hired by Meyer to spray his property on Bluebell Road in Elkhorn.

Meyer said Tuesday that within about two weeks of the spraying he noticed damage to the spruce, aspen and roses in his yard.

"They started turning brown and the leaves curled up," Meyer said.

Later, some of the trees and bushes died. Others remain visibly damaged to this day.

The yard has yet to be restored. Meyer said he had to leave it in damaged condition so that evidence, including chemical testing, could be conducted for litigation.

Meyer is seeking about $80,000 in damages.

"I've had multiple appraisals done, and that's how it came out," he said.

"Our client's property was clearly damaged," said Hepworth. "They wouldn't pay for it, so we filed a lawsuit. I don't think they've much evidence to support a claim against Mr. Blunt."

According to court records, Blunt previously lived in Hailey and Twin Falls. Hepworth said he hasn't yet been able to locate Blunt, but would like to talk to him regarding Sawtooth Spraying's claim. Hepworth said the lawsuit will likely be dropped against Blunt, but said he needed to file it for strategic reasons.

"It's a strategy to deal with a defense raised by Sawtooth Spraying," Hepworth said. "It's a method of getting Sawtooth Spraying to back up their allegation.

"The point I'm trying to make is that Sawtooth Spraying is the one making the accusation against Mr. Blunt, and I'm saying they don't have much to back up their claim."

Neither Schultz nor his Boise attorney Robert D. Lewis returned telephone calls to the Idaho Mountain Express by press deadline on Thursday. Blunt could not be reached for comment.

A jury trial in the case against Sawtooth Spraying has been scheduled to start Feb. 23, 2010, before Judge Robert J. Elgee in Blaine County 5th District Court. No court dates have yet been set in the case against Blunt.

Terry Smith:

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