PORTLAND – Concluding a three-day civil trial in federal court, a jury awarded $125,000 to a Massachusetts man Thursday night for injuries he suffered during a scuffle with two police officers in Wells.

Jurors in U.S. District Court decided that Ogunquit police officer Matthew Buttrick and former Wells police officer Jacob Titcomb were negligent under Maine law and are liable for the incident on May 26, 2007, involving Michael Fortin.

But in a two-part verdict, the jury also found that the officers did not use excessive force against Fortin, as spelled out by federal law, and they declined to award punitive damages.

The complex verdict, delivered after about seven hours of deliberations, left both sides claiming victory Thursday night.

“We feel that he was vindicated,” said Michael Feldman, who represented Fortin along with lawyer Michael Turndorf. “Mr. Fortin was believed, and was awarded very substantial damages.”

Ed Benjamin and Doug Louison, the lawyers who represented Buttrick and Titcomb, respectively, said they were gratified that the jury found the officers did not use excessive force.

They said they will appeal the $125,000 award because state law puts a $10,000 cap on awards against individual law enforcement officers who are held liable on negligence claims.

“We’ll be filing motions to further reduce the amount under the statutory cap,” Benjamin said. “Obviously we’re disappointed that the jury even found negligence in this case.”

Michael Fortin lived in Kittery and was dating Jill King of Wells when the confrontation with police happened in the spring of 2007. The officers arrived at King’s home to investigate reports of a possible domestic assault against her by Fortin.

Fortin claimed in his lawsuit that the officers entered the apartment, restrained him by both arms and kicked him in the left knee, rupturing three of the four ligaments and making it impossible for him to return to work as a carpenter.

He sought compensation for more than $100,000 in medical bills, loss of future earnings and punitive damages.

Buttrick and Titcomb denied ever kicking Fortin. They said Fortin was drunk and they wrestled him to the ground after he got aggressive and bumped his chest into Buttrick. The attorneys for the officers said the lawsuit filed by Fortin last year was all about a down-on-his-luck man looking for a payday.

“The issue is obviously credibility in this case, because somebody’s lying,” Benjamin told the jury during closing arguments earlier on Thursday.

He said that within minutes of sustaining the knee injury, Fortin was asking for badge numbers and was planning to sue the police.

In his closing argument on Thursday, Feldman vehemently denied the accusations that his client fabricated any part of his story. Fortin only wanted fair compensation for an incident in which the police abused their power, Feldman said.

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at:

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