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Lawsuit accusing company of exploiting man's dementia is dismissed

By Stephen Betts | May 11, 2020

Rockland — A lawsuit, on behalf of a retired owner of one of the region's largest lobster dealerships who accused them of taking advantage of his dementia to negotiate a revised lease agreement, was dismissed.

Details on an apparent settlement in the lawsuit on behalf of 82-year-old William Atwood of Owls Head against Maine Lobster and Processing LLC were not included in the court papers filed April 23 in the Knox County Court.

But in a Jan. 20 court filing, the parties said they reached a tentative agreement, but they needed more time to draft the settlement documents, including a commercial lease agreement.

The lawsuit was filed in June 2019.

Atwood sold his businesses — Atwood Lobster and Warnershores LLC — to Maine Lobster and Processing LLC in May 2011. Maine Lobster is part of a larger company, Mazzetta Lobster Company LLC.

Mazzetta is one of the largest importers and producers of shrimp, mussels, lobsters, crab and fin fish, handling more than 100 million pounds of finished seafood product each year, according to the company's website.

Mazetta's Atwood Lobster facility on Spruce Head Island in South Thomaston supplies lobster to its processing plants in Canada. A portion of the product is held at the facility and sold as live product.

The lawsuit filed by William Atwood alleged that Maine Lobster began approaching Atwood to amend the lease agreement for land and a building he owns in Tenants Harbor, not acquired during the 2011 sale.

His wife, Sandra Atwood, became aware of the attempts and notified the company it was not to attempt coercing him to sign anything, unless it was first reviewed by her and his attorney.

The company's representatives persisted, however, and William Atwood signed an amended lease agreement in March 2015, according to the lawsuit.

"After Mr. Atwood realized the significance of the Amendment that he signed, he has experienced shock, dismay and humiliation that he had been taken advantage of," the lawsuit stated.

The amendment expanded the amount of the building covered under the lease, according to the lawsuit, and prohibited Atwood from using the remainder of his Tenants Harbor property for any lobster-related business that could compete against Maine Lobster.

The lawsuit further claimed the premises leased by Maine Lobster fell into disrepair through gross negligence by the company.

William Atwood's attorney Patrick Mellor of Rockland declined to comment May 11 on the dismissal of the lawsuit.

An email was sent May 11 to Maine Lobster's attorney Keith Glidden. There was no immediate response.

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