Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Decision in the Hundred-Year-Old Lawsuit

As promised yesterday, today we reveal the decision in the lawsuit brought by Frank Shults and his sister, Mabel Hoffman, against the New York & New England Cement and Lime Company. The decision was handed down on January 6, 1917, and reported on that same day in the Hudson Evening Register.

$5,000 Award is Made to the Plaintiffs.
Justice Chester Gives Decision at Albany.

ALBANY, Jan. 6--Justice Chester, sitting in Special term of Supreme court here to-day, announced his findings in the cases of Shults and Hoffman vs. the New York and New England Cement and Lime company. There were present Samuel B. Coffin and J. Rider Cady, of Hudson, and Robert C. Thorn, of New York, representing the cement company, and John C. Dardess, of Chatham, and John L. Crandell, representing the plaintiff.

Justice Chester made the announcement that he would make an award of $5,000 to the plaintiffs. In the matter of application asking for an injunction against the Cement company he further announced that he would deny such application for an injunction. . . . 

This case, generally known as the cement dust case, was tried at the November term of Supreme court here, Justice Chester presiding. There were two actions tried jointly, one being that of Frank Shults, as executor of Mary Shults, and the other that of Frank Shults and Mabel Hoffman, the cement company being the defendant in both actions, which were for damages alleged to be due to dwelling and farm caused by the dust coming from the cement plant, and in which an injunction was also asked to restrain any operation of the cement company that might cause any further dust to come on plaintiffs' property.

The trial was commenced on November 20, and a large number of witnesses were called, including horticulturists, geologists, real estate men, physicians. A miniature model of the plant was also used during the trial. The plaintiffs introduced evidence to show damage caused by the depreciation of property, both residence and farming land, owing to the dust and the proximity of plant, while the defendant brought in evidence seeking to controvert these contentions, and also showed that it had spent $142,000 in putting in a dust collecting system, which cost $30,000 yearly to run.

The case went on to November 23 when it was given to jury during the noon hour, and that night they reported at 8:30 that they were unable to agree upon a verdict and were discharged. The presiding judge then announced that owning to the jury's disagreement in deciding the question of damages, he would take up this phase of the case as well as the injunction. He, therefore, directed the attorneys to submit briefs by December 15, and to-day's decisions are the result.

The decision of the justice seemed to be a partial victory for both sides. The award of $5,000 to plaintiffs indicates that he holds damages were due to them, while his refusal to grant an injunction cannot but be regarded as a decided victory for the cement company.

The plaintiff in its suit asked for $75,000 in damages.

Gossips Note: The New York & New England Cement and Lime Company became Universal Atlas Cement Company, then St. Lawrence Cement, and now Holcim. The powerhouse, built in 1909, still stands. Rob Yasinsac has some remarkable photographs of the building on his website Hudson Valley Ruins.       

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