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Bennington Superior Court Civil Division.

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MANCHESTER — A lawsuit against Manchester Village School and its executive director — filed by an insurance company that paid more than $300,000 for fire damage at a Main Street office building — has been dismissed in Bennington Superior Court Civil Division.

The suit, filed in June, was dismissed Jan. 7 by Judge John Valente after none of the parties attended a scheduling conference set for that day. In his order, the judge also referred to pretrial filing deadlines not being met.

The plaintiff, Main Street America Assurance Co., subsequently filed a motion to reinstate the suit.

FIRE DAMAGES

The insurance company had sued Great Expectations Educational Resources Inc., doing business as Manchester Village School, and Francis X. Moriarty, executive director at the school and a psychologist with a private practice and an office in the building where the fire occurred.

The therapeutic day school for students with learning disabilities is located at 4002 Main St. Moriarty also had an office in a separate building at 3768 Main St., which was owned by attorney Joseph J. O’Dea.

The fire occurred in O’Dea’s building on Aug. 26, 2018.

DID NOT APPEAR

In his dismissal order, Valente said, “A scheduling conference was held on January 7, 2022, at 9 a.m. ... No party appeared while the court was on the record. At 9:06 a.m. the court dismissed the matter without prejudice for the failure to prosecute the case.”

The judge added, “The above referenced matter is dismissed without prejudice, each party to bear its own costs for the above reasons.”

Dismissal without prejudice allows the parties to seek further court action relative to the issues in the suit.

Valente also noted, “This is not an instance of self-represented litigants with no knowledge of the rules of procedure or authority of a court order. The parties’ continued failure to comply with the court’s efforts to ensure the expeditious prosecution of the case or otherwise communicate with the court lead to no other conclusion than this matter must have resolved.”

He had listed in his order pretrial discovery-related deadlines that also were not responded to by the suit parties.

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SEEKS TO REFILE

Attorney Jacques Parenteau, of Parenteau & O’Hara, of Framingham, Mass., representing the plaintiffs, filed a motion to reinstate the lawsuit on Jan. 10, after his firm failed to locate, complete and file necessary court e-documents.

Parenteau said noted that a search on Jan. 7 found that “both plaintiff and defense counsel had not opened the e-notice of December 14, 2021.”

Defense attorney Richard Windish, of Hayes, Windfish Badgewick, of Woodstock, could not be reached for comment.

NEGLIGENCE ALLEGED

In the suit complaint, the insurance company said it paid $339,063 for fire damages, and also seeks to recover the $500 insurance deductible amount.

The suit had alleged negligence against both the school and Moriarty, contending that Great Expectations and Moriarty were tenants at the property, and that “Moriarty maintained an office at the property for conducting business on behalf of Great Expectations.”

The defendants had denied the initial suit’s allegations.

According to the Manchester Journal’s report on the fire, the building at 3768 Main St. was unoccupied on a Sunday afternoon, but firefighters were able to put out the blaze before it consumed the building.

However, the structure sustained fire and smoke damage.

The complaint contended that an investigation revealed the fire originated on the “second floor portion of the main building determined to be Dr. Moriarty’s office.”

Negligence was allegedly related to a electric power strip in Moriarty’s office that became wet from water from a nearby water cooler.

Jim Therrien writes for Vermont News and Media, including the Bennington Banner, Manchester Journal and Brattleboro Reformer. Email jtherrien@benningtonbanner.com

Reporter/editor

Jim Therrien reports for the three Vermont News and Media newspapers in Southern Vermont. He previously worked as a reporter and editor at the Berkshire Eagle, the Bennington Banner, the Springfield Republican, and the former North Adams Transcript.


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