A recent ruling in Letcher Circuit Court shows the perils of ignoring the timber anti-piracy laws in Kentucky.
Plaintiff Kentucky River Properties brought a case of alleged timber theft and trespass against Gregg Hogg and others. The property in question is in Big Branch, Linefork, and Kentucky River Properties owns the left side. Coy Hogg, Dwight Hogg, and Roland Hogg own the right side.
In a finding of fact, Perry Circuit Judge William Engle III, acting as special judge for the Letcher Circuit, ruled that defendant Gregg Hogg was guilty of trespass and timber piracy. Engle also ordered Hogg to pay more than $200,000.
According to Engle’s ruling, Gregg Hogg had entered into a verbal contract to timber the property owned by his cousins, Coy, Dwight, and Roland Hogg. However, Kentucky River Properties proved that Gregg Hogg also timbered on its property. The plaintiff ’s expert witness, Robert Campbell, an employee of Kentucky River, testified that the timber operation was located on Kentucky River’s property. Company employee John West Forrester testified about the timber’s value.
Gregg Hogg testified that his belief of where the property lines were located had been based on earlier discussions with his father and that he thought the property that was timbered belonged to the Hogg family. Judge Engle found, however, that Greg Hogg had no basis for this belief. Although the Engle found the Hogg cousins blameless, he found that Greg Hogg failed to follow all of the notice requirements a timber company must give to adjoining owners before entering someone’s property to timber.
Because Greg Hogg failed to follow the Kentucky timber law, the trial court awarded treble damages, court costs, and attorney fees, making the total award $ 239,781.62, which is the maximum amount allowed under the law. This is one of the largest timber trespass awards in eastern Kentucky.
Whitesburg attorney Calvin R. Tackett served as co-counsel for the plaintiff.
On August 12, the court allowed defense attorney James W. Craft II to withdraw in recognition of his appointment as Letcher Circuit Judge and the defendants were given 20 days to secure a new counsel. However, they did not do so and after the 20 days passed the finding of fact was reaffirmed in all aspects.