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Astoria log exporters settle lawsuit

Fallout from a partnership that soured
By Edward Stratton

The Daily Astorian

Published on August 1, 2018 4:58PM

Log shipping has countinued at the Port of Astoria while the current and former exporters battle in court.

The Daily Astorian

Log shipping has countinued at the Port of Astoria while the current and former exporters battle in court.

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A multiyear legal battle between Astoria Forest Products and Westerlund Log Handlers over log exports at the Port of Astoria has been settled.

The U.S. District Court in Portland posted a notice online that lawyers for the two sides had reached a settlement, giving the parties 60 days to reinstate the lawsuit before the dismissal becomes final. Lawyers for the companies could not immediately be reached for comment.

Westerlund, owned by David Westerlund and Roger Nance, began exporting logs to Asia from the Port in 2010. State-owned China National Building Materials Corp. bought much of the timber and loaned Westerlund money for equipment. By 2014, the two sides were embroiled in lawsuits, with China National putting liens on Westerlund Log Handlers’ equipment.

Dennis Murphy, the former co-owner of Eugene-based Murphy Timber Co., stepped in, allegedly paying more than $2.5 million to settle the case and release the liens on the equipment. His company, Astoria Forest Products, signed a contract for Westerlund Log Handlers to handle logs procured by Murphy for export.

But the partnership soured and the two companies filed dueling lawsuits against each other.

Westerlund and Nance, who was later removed from the lawsuit, claimed they were unfairly pushed out of the partnership and a profit-sharing agreement. The Murphy parties claimed they had covered the expenses of Westerlund Log Handlers, whose lease was later terminated and transferred to Astoria Forest Products in exchange for past-due bills being paid off.

Astoria Forest Products has since developed Pier 3 into a log-processing yard, with exports done from Pier 1. The company was recently awarded Clatsop Economic Development Resources’ economic impact award, five years after Westerlund Log Handlers received the group’s job creation award.

The details of the settlement, and of Nance’s earlier removal from the suit, have been kept confidential.

Westerlund and Nance had originally sought at least $30 million each for lost business assets, opportunities, compensation and profits; $1 million each for emotional distress; and $10 million for Westerlund Log Handlers from the log-handling agreement.

Murphy had sought $1.5 million in mitigation damages from Westerlund, claiming David Westerlund was also personally liable for the damages as a guarantor of the log-handling contract.


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