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Court dismisses Hastings' appeal in Hingham case

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  February 27, 2014 04:18 PM

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A four-year legal battle between developer Thomas Hastings and the Town of Hingham appears to have reached its end, with town officials saying a judge has dismissed the latest appeal.

“We’re thankful to have this matter behind us,” said Selectmen Chairman Bruce Rabuffo in a statement. “We were confident in our position and that position has been strongly supported by both courts’ decisions in the case.”

Neither of Hastings’ attorneys was immediately available for comment.

In the ruling, released on Dec. 10, an appeals court judge upheld a 2011 Superior Court determination that favored the town.

In a phone interview, Hingham Town Administrator Ted Alexiades said the town waited until the appeal period to the latest ruling expired before releasing news of the decision.

TH Claims, formed by Hastings to consolidate his claims against Hingham, initially alleged in 2010 that a slew of town officials, boards, and residents had acted unfairly and in a biased manner against several of his projects, including those at the Harbor Dream development, with boat slips in Hingham Harbor, and at BackRiver development.

The $10 million lawsuit and allegations of breaches of contract and fraud were dismissed a year later. In a 29-page decision, the judge said the claims were not made in a timely manner.

Hastings appealed the ruling to Appeals Court shortly thereafter. Despite Hastings’ confidence at the time of the appeal that a judge would rule in his favor, a judge recently sided with the town.

In the most recent decision, court officials reiterated that more than half of the 39 counts against the town were dismissed because of the statute of limitations.

For several of the projects, problems should have initially been taken up with the Conservation Commission that issued disputed orders. In others, appeals should have been made under the town’s Zoning Act, court officials said.

Allegations that town boards purposely interfered with contractual agreements were also dismissed.

“If the town defendants decide to take discretionary action to enforce zoning bylaws, wetlands protection laws, or licensing standards, they are acting in a regulatory (not a proprietary) capacity,” court officials said.

On an individual basis, court officials said there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that town officers and employees interfered with contractual relations, or that fraud existed.

“TH failed to alleged facts plausibly showing actual malice,” the document stated.

Officials also dismissed tax-abatement claims as having skipped administrative remedies within the town, and said civil rights allegations don’t meet the standard for claims.

“What that means, and what is most satisfying about the decision, is that the court reaffirmed the lower court’s ruling that this case must be dismissed in its entirety,” Alexiades said in a statement.

In the interview, Alexiades said, "It’s a shame this case dragged on as long as it did, not just for the town but for all of the 18 individuals named in some capacity as defendants who were simply fulfilling their civic responsibility, just doing their jobs."

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