Flames engulf Nemo's Restaurant in Tremont in December 2013. FILE PHOTO

Nemo’s owners sue firefighters

BANGOR — The owners of a Bass Harbor restaurant that burned to the ground two years ago have filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Bangor against more than a dozen Mount Desert Island firefighters who responded to the blaze.

The fire destroyed Cap’n Nemo’s and an attached residence on the night of Dec. 4, 2013.

In a complaint filed last Dec. 3, Robert L. Cousins and his wife, Judy A. Cousins, charged that the Tremont Fire Department was “predisposed not to assist us” in the event of a fire and “breached their duty” to act.

In a second complaint, filed Dec. 24, the plaintiffs charged that the firefighters showed “deliberate indifference” to their duty, and that their conduct was “intentional and reckless, extreme and outrageous.” The couple are asking the court for compensatory damages of at least $1.86 million plus interest and costs, and other relief.

The complaint also states that as a 100 percent disabled veteran, Robert Cousins is entitled to treble damages.

Named as defendants was the entire command corps of the Tremont Fire Department: Chief Keith Higgins; his brother, Capt. Heath Higgins; Lt. Dudley Poirier; and Assistant Chief Tad Jewett. Also named were six other Tremont volunteer firefighters, five members of the Southwest Harbor Fire Department and five individuals identified only as “John Doe #1-John Doe #5.”

Added as defendants in the second complaint were Mark Good, a reporter for the Mount Desert Islander, and the newspaper’s editor, Earl Brechlin, and publisher, Alan Baker. According to Cousins, Good was the author of a “libelous story” that appeared in the newspaper and “spread the rumor” that the restaurant had “a long list of uncorrected life safety code violations.”

The Cousinses are representing themselves in their lawsuit.

On Dec. 30, U.S. District Court Judge George Z. Singal signed an order affirming the Dec. 11 decision by Magistrate Judge John C. Nivison recommending dismissal of the couple’s first complaint against all the firefighters except the two Higgins brothers, Jewett, Tremont firefighter Matthew Tetreault and Southwest Harbor firefighter Mathew Lindsley. Also dismissed were the five John Doe defendants.

In dismissing the case against the several defendants, the court acted on its own.

“In their complaint, Plaintiffs have named twenty (20) individuals as Defendants,” Nivison wrote, but “failed to assert any facts as to the involvement” of 14 of them or relevant facts relating to the 15th, Tremont firefighter William Weir. “Plaintiffs, therefore, have failed to state a claim” against any of the 14 firefighters or Weir.

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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