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Author Topic: Timber theft  (Read 1096 times)

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Offline CTL logger

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Timber theft
« on: December 21, 2017, 08:16:51 PM »
3 years ago I worked for a company I was the sub contractor for harvesting. We did a private job clear cut the pasture for landowner to develop into more buffalo grazing area, on remainder of property cut all the undesirable, damaged trees and all the ash. We chipper all pulpwood on site harvested everything with a processor and forwarder. This was done in winter time and it was favorable logging conditions. Now three years later after this guy got paid I'm named in a lawsuit for stealing 140k worth of timber at triple stumpage it's 420k how can you wait 3 years to file a lawsuit we didn't steal anything from the whole job we had 9800 bd ft of saw logs. How would anyone prove any of this either way he could have harvested the remaining timber in the 3 years since. The company i was working for had a contract with landowner. Even if you had a forester look at it how would you know if the tree stumps left were cut by us or someone else. The landowner was around everyday we were working he never had the sheriff come and arrest us so how can the courts allow him to file this lawsuit? Any input would be appreciated.

Offline Stuart Caruk

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Re: Timber theft
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2017, 12:16:37 AM »
First thing I would check is what's the statute of Limitations for timber theft in your state. In many states it only 2 years (it's 3 in my state). If they file and action after that time, it's easy to get it dismissed at summary judgement. You MUST reply to the suit though rather than sit and do nothing. Failure to respond will likely get them granted a default judgement. If you don't know how to prepare a response and file it properly, it's time to spend a few $$$ on a decent attorney before things get out of hand.
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Offline sawguy21

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Re: Timber theft
« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2017, 04:17:50 AM »
Was he in fact the landowner?
old age and treachery will always overcome youth and enthusiasm

Offline square1

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Re: Timber theft
« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2017, 05:03:15 AM » can the courts allow him to file this lawsuit? Any input would be appreciated.

In the US the question is not "Do I have a legit lawsuit?", the question is "Can I win or get a settlement?" Its not who has the strongest case, it is who has the best lawyer.
Sorry for your trouble, a Holiday bummer for certain.

Online Ronald Wenrich

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Re: Timber theft
« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2017, 06:24:07 AM »
The reason you're being called in is because you were involved in the cutting.  Since you were a subcontractor, you shouldn't be too worried about making big payments.  That should be solely on the shoulders of those that directed you to do the cutting.  There should have been some sort of agreement between the landowner and those that contracted you.  If there was a written agreement, then this thing should be able to be sorted out fairly quickly.  I assume you were doing what was directed by the contractor.  He should have been overseeing the operation.

I was involved in one case where a landowner sued a logger for trespass.  I had figured the value of the removed timber.  As it turned out, the landowner that owned the timber wasn't the landowner that gave the logger permission to cut.  In that case, there was a definite trespass.  One landowner thought he owned property that he didn't own.  That landowner was the one with legal problem.  When you go into a contract with a landowner, they guarantee ownership and they have to defend it, not the logger.  Same goes for a forester that is working as an agent for a landowner.  If he designates trees to cut, then the problem is with him, not the logger.  I had a case like that, as well.

As for telling whether someone else cut it, I think that the landowner or adjacent landowners would be able to testify whether someone else was on the jobsite.  If you did a clearcut, there wouldn't be much left for someone else to cut.

There's a couple of ways of figuring out the value.  One is to do an actual stump measurement and count to get to a 100% cruise.  I've done that on a couple of trespass cases where it was a fairly recent trespass and there wasn't a whole lot of brush.

On another job where the brush was very heavy, we used circular plots and used it as a representative sample.  I believe we worked on a 10% sample. 

After you have a volume, a valuation has to be attached to it.  You have to use the value as of 3 years ago, not today's stumpage value.  You also have a rough time proving quality.  I was up against one forester that claimed the removed trees were veneer value without anything to back it up.  That was thrown out. 

It will be really important to see what supporting documentation this lawyer has come up with.  If they are just spouting numbers, they won't have much of a chance in court.  They should have a forester to establish volume and value.  There should be a written report that describes how they arrived at the numbers. 

Never under estimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

Offline PA_Walnut

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Re: Timber theft
« Reply #5 on: December 22, 2017, 06:44:04 AM »
Lots of good information here so far. Keep in mind that you can draft a lawsuit against someone for really any reason you want. The question is: will it stand-up in court. As said, be SURE to respond within the time allocated. They may be counting on a default judgment, at which time you'll be in worse shape to defend, if even possible.

Disclaimer: I am not legal council of any sort, which is why I know when I need one. This seems like a fine time for you to get a good one quickly.

Keep us posted!
I own my own small piece of the world on an 8 acre plot on the side of a mountain with walnut, hickory, ash and spruce.
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Offline Texas Ranger

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Re: Timber theft
« Reply #6 on: December 22, 2017, 09:56:55 AM »
When I was doing timber sales for landowners they fell into two categories, ones I know and ones I did not know.  The ones I knew were easy enough, the others I ran back ground checks on, land records for them, and talked with neighbors.  Same with loggers, if I didn't know them I researched them.  In 50 years I had less than a dozen false landowners, usually family members.  Loggers were another question, good and bad.

Three years delay sounds a little like fishing to me, but, they may be depending on lost records, no record of employees, etc. 

Lawyer up, will cost less in the long run.
The Ranger, home of Texas Forestry

Offline CTL logger

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Re: Timber theft
« Reply #7 on: December 24, 2017, 03:58:10 PM »
Good information on this. I have my own attorney, I haven't received any info from the company I worked for, the owner called me to give me a heads up I'd be sent a paperwork from his attorney. I think he needs me to help him defend this case I don't really like the guy but he/we did nothing wrong no timber was stolen. The logs that were cut and sold when the company trucks went to haul them so everyone would get paid the landowner already sold some of the logs without our knowledge. Funny part was they ended up at the same mill, so the money for the saw logs sits in an escrow account at that mill. I looked up nys timber theft laws the landowner should have had me or us arrested 3 years ago by the Dec. He has an uphill battle fighting this the burden of proof is on him. It's still going to take up my time to help fight it. If I don't help my exemployer and he loses he will turn around and sue me probably better to join him and have him pay the legal fees. His pockets are deeper than mine. The landowner is fishing for money he has tried suing the company's insurance company for property damage for over 2 years but his attorney is a commission based outfit and they would settle for 30k but it wasn't enough for him so now were going to try timber theft route. He even called the dec after we left and said we spilled motor oil all over the landing they called and questioned me about it I said it's from bark in the puddles tannic acid makes the water black looking. The officer went and investigated called back and said I was right no oil was found.  Crazy landowner background checks don't seem like a bad idea.

Offline Ron Scott

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Re: Timber theft
« Reply #8 on: December 26, 2017, 10:31:36 PM »
Were the timber harvest volumes and product payments by species and performance in line with the terms of the Timber Harvest Contract signed by the landowner and the timber purchaser who you sub-contracted for? Usually negligence has to be proven to collect triple stumpage where the Purchaser's performance and you as their Agent would have made excessive and purposeful violations to the Timber Harvest Contract.

A professional consulting forester may be needed as well as a lawyer to determine the extent of damages if any.

Offline mike_belben

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Re: Timber theft
« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2017, 03:56:04 AM »
When i was young and green i thought that the outcome of the court was whatever the reading of the law dictated, that burden of proof was on the shoulder of the accuser and innocent until proven guilty was the standard.  Experience has burst that bubble.

"New York was No. 1 from 1976 to 2010 with 2,522 convictions." [Of public officials.]

NY is the undisputed epicenter of organized crime and corruption. Im trying to leave my personal hatred of that govt out of it, but my own experience with NY state police and court system was consistent with the above quote.  What im saying is you NEVER know how the outcome will be (other than expensive) when dealing with court up there.  Ive also seen it in a massachusetts courtroom where justice was skewed by personal relationships within the system.. Many times over my life actually.   

In hindsight, i would select my attorney based on their stature/relationship with the judge, which can be difficult info to acquire.  What i have seen with my own eyes a handful of times on the losing end is one attorney in the judges favor and one who is not.  The judgement being skewed toward the tennis pal's client.

  If its in a district your current attorney does not practice in, and things get deeper, i would change lawyers with his blessing.  Every court has a public assistance staffmember. They know the litigators and judges, as well as the personal relationships between them there on a daily basis.  I would seriously go to the court in person, put on my friendly face and go chat up whoever looked chattable.  It might be security, it might be clerks, etc.. But id be compiling a list of attorney suggestions and take the one i got most. 

"Ma'am, question for you.  Ive just gotten notice that ill be in this court room in a few months and im wondering, who would you personally hire for an attorney.  I dont trust lawyers, but ill bet you know a few honest ones seeing as you work here."

Naturally they arent allowed to give legal advice, but you wont need legal advice.  If it gets ugly the only advice you need is who does the judge like.  Knowing which judge(s) preside over said court is helpful.  The staff in the courtroom knows who the rockstars are, its their watercooler talk.  and thats who they would hire.

Hopefully nothing comes of it, but keep this info in mind if the situation turns sour on you.  Best of luck.

Offline ChugiakTinkerer

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Re: Timber theft
« Reply #10 on: December 27, 2017, 12:40:22 PM »
@ CTL logger

I wouldn't assume that the former employer will necessarily have your back.  If you don't have a copy of the lawsuit complaint then go down to the courthouse and get one.  Take it to your attorney and make sure you know exactly what your exposure is.  If you are named as a party then you must do this or face the consequences.  If you are only named as a witness then things are much less dreary.  If you are named as a party but have not been served papers, then you should also get with your attorney to be removed from the suit.
Woodland Mills HM130

Offline barbender

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Re: Timber theft
« Reply #11 on: December 27, 2017, 01:34:18 PM »
My limited experience with the legal system is, people who go into things figuring they don't have anything to worry about because they did nothing wrong, experience the worst outcomes. You've got to look out for yourself, no one else will and plenty of others will be trying to make you out to be the bad guy so they can get into your wallet.
Too many irons in the fire

Offline moodnacreek

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Re: Timber theft
« Reply #12 on: January 06, 2018, 10:18:38 PM »
All you ever here about is the bad loggers and they are out there.  I often say; when your self employed, it's open season on you.  This story sounds like a set up right from the start. The oil spill report and selling some logs on the side. Of course the logger found out.  The mil [or log buyer] wants the logger and will warn him when something is up. Hope this problem goes away.


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