By Cameron Rasmusson
A simple timber cutting mistake worth $1,600 has escalated to leave a Sagle man on the hook for nearly $200,000.
In a legal opinion, Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Jim Jones said this week that while the legal system operated correctly, it nevertheless failed Kenneth and Sally Eyer. The Sagle couple faces financial ruin after a series of court decisions require them to pay damages and legal fees to the tune of a minimum $185,755.
“It is not clear from the record how the Eyers ended up in this position but it is a tragedy and does not speak well for the legal system,” Jones wrote in his opinion. “It is imperative that court procedures be reformed to expedite the process and reduce the cost of litigation to avert a repeat of this unfortunate story.”
The situation arose from a log purchase agreement in which Kenneth Eyers allowed Idaho Forest Group to harvest timber from his property to raise funds for his wife’s chemotherapy. By mistake, the IFG workers harvest $1,600 worth of timber from property belonging to neighbors Russell and Laura Stevens, who sued for $268,770 in damages.
The families eventually settled for $50,000, but later, the Eyers failed to win a lawsuit against Idaho Forest Group, which they claimed failed a responsibility to determine property boundaries. Idaho Forest Group successfully argued they had no such obligation, and the Eyers were obligated to pay yet more court fees.
“…When combined with the fees the Eyers will pay the attorneys on both sides of this appeal the amount will likely approach a quarter of a million dollars,” Jones wrote.
While Jones can’t fault any of the legal applications that went into the process, he said the fact that a relatively simple error could escalate to such a heavy penalty speaks very poorly of the legal system itself.
“It appears to me that the legal system catastrophically failed Kenneth and Sally Eyer,” Jones wrote.