Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Court

by
When Douglas Going did not inherit land owned by his parents, Going sent a notice of demand to his cousin, Alayna Laprel, and her husband, Neal Smith, who had lawfully purchased the land from Going’s father. In the notice, Going called Laprel a “thief.” Going then purported to place and record a “commercial lien” on the property. Laprel and Smith filed a complaint seeking a declaration that the purported lien was baseless and alleging claims for, inter alia, slander, libel, and slander of title. The superior court entered summary judgment in favor of Laprel and Smith on their declaratory judgment claim and on their claim for slander of title. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the superior court did not lack jurisdiction to act in this case; and (2) the superior court did not err in failing to dismiss without prejudice Laprel’s and Smith’s own slander of title claim. View "Laprel v. Going" on Justia Law

by
Janet Howe and Rajesh Mandekar (together, Howe) owed a condominium in the River Knoll Farms Condominium. The condominium association (Association) sued Howe for negligence, nuisance, and keeping a dangerous dog. MMG Insurance Company, which had issued a homeowner’s policy to Howe, declined to defend Howe in the litigation. The trial court subsequently declared that MMG had no duty to defend in the suit, concluding that the policy issued to Howe did not provide coverage because the Association’s suit sought only equitable relief. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding that MMG had a duty to defend Howe in the suit because the complaint alleged facts that would support claims potentially falling within the coverage of the policy. View "Howe v. MMG Ins. Co." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant asserting multiple intentional torts and alleging that Defendant sexually assaulted Plaintiff in the early 1970s when Plaintiff was a child and Defendant was a Roman Catholic pastor. On remand, the superior court entered summary judgment in favor of Defendant, concluding that Plaintiff’s complaint was time-barred. At issue on appeal was whether the statute of limitations was tolled due to Defendant’s move to Massachusetts during the applicable time frame. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant established, without dispute of material facts, that he was amenable to service because Maine’s long-arm statute permitted service of the complaint in Massachusetts and that Plaintiff could have located him through reasonable effort and served him by any means other than publication. View "Angell v. Hallee" on Justia Law

by
In 2004, Paula Bratton and Daniel Hills and their children (“the Brattons”), moved into a house that they rented from Halsey McDonough. In 2008, the Department of Health and Human Services notified McDonough that he was required to relocate the Brattons because of numerous lead hazards throughout the rental property. The Brattons subsequently filed twelve-count complaint against McDonough. The trial court granted McDonough’s motion for judgment as a matter of law as to some of the Brattons’ claims and in favor of McDonough based on a jury verdict on the remaining claims. The Supreme Court vacated the jury’s verdict and remanded the case for a new trial, holding (1) the trial court clearly erred in excluding the Brattons’ qualified expert witness; (2) the trial court erred in entering judgment as a matter of law for McDonough on the negligence claims of the two older children, as well as the intentional infliction of emotional distress and punitive damages claims of all three children; (3) the trial court improperly shifted the burden of proof onto the Brattons to disprove McDonough’s independent causation theories and erred in refusing to give the jury a proper and requested instruction; and (4) the trial court’s errors created a fundamentally unfair trial. View "Bratton v. McDonough" on Justia Law

by
In 2007, Plaintiff, frustrated with then-proposed budget cuts to mental health services, sent the Governor a series of emails that were interpreted as threatening. Plaintiff was delivered to MaineGeneral Medical Center for a psychiatric evaluation, where she was eventually subjected to a search and held against her will for the night in a locked room. Plaintiff later filed an action against MaineGeneral and Scott Kemmerer, an emergency room physician, alleging that Defendants deprived her of liberty without due process and subjected her to an unreasonable search in violation of the Maine Civil Rights Act (MCRA). Defendants filed for entry of summary judgment as to the MCRA claims. The court (1) granted the motion as to MaineGeneral, determining that MaineGeneral could not be held vicariously liable for the acts of its employees under the MCRA; and (2) denied the motion as to Kemmerer. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the denial of summary judgment as to Kemmerer on issues of immunity, holding that Kemmerer was not entitled to absolute immunity or common law qualified immunity from Plaintiff’s MCRA claims; and (2) did not reach Kemmerer’s remaining arguments in this interlocutory appeal. View "Clifford v. MaineGeneral Med. Ctr." on Justia Law

by
After Daniel Nickerson suffered a fatal heart attack, Nickerson’s wife, Cecelia, as personal representative of Nickerson’s estate, filed professional negligence and wrongful death claims against Daniel’s doctor, Dr. Alan Carter, and vicarious liability claims against Mercy Primary Care, Dr. Carter’s employer. A jury found that Dr. Carter was negligent but not the legal cause of Daniel’s death. The Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s judgment, holding that the court erred in admitting the findings of a medical malpractice screening panel, as the panel chair’s consideration of evidence outside the record violated the Maine Health Security Act and Maine’s procedural rules. Remanded. View "Estate of Nickerson v. Carter" on Justia Law

by
After Ellen Clark and John McLane ended their relationship, Clark instituted protection from abuse proceedings against McLane. The district court issued a protection order for a period of one year prohibiting McLane from having contact with Clark and ordering McLane to disable and refrain from undertaking further efforts designed to disseminate information about Clark to others. McLane appealed, contending that insufficient evidence supported the court’s finding that he abused Clark within the meaning of the protection from abuse statute. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the evidence Clark presented was sufficient as a matter of law to support the court’s finding of abuse. View "Clark v. McLane" on Justia Law

by
Thirteen-year-old Timothy Bell suffered serious injuries when he skateboarded out of Randall and Rose Dawson's driveway and was struck by a moving vehicle on the roadway. Teresa Bell, on behalf of her son, filed an action against the Dawsons for negligent supervision and negligently creating or allowing dangerous topographical conditions - specifically, vegetation growth - on their property. The superior court entered judgment in favor of the Dawsons, concluding (1) the Dawsons owed no duty of care to Timothy because Timothy was not in a custodial relationship with the Dawsons when the accident occurred, and (2) there was no indication that growth of trees or bushes on the Dawsons' property contributed to the accident. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the superior court did not err in finding Timothy did not have a custodial relationship with the Dawsons the morning of the accident; and (2) the Dawsons did not have a duty to Timothy to have provided an unobstructed view of the driveway on their premises from the roadway. View "Bell v. Dawson" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed an unsworn notice of claim with the superior court pursuant to the Maine Health Security Act (MHSA) alleging that Defendants were negligent in providing her medical care. The statute of limitations on Plaintiff's claim subsequently expired. Thereafter, Plaintiff served her unsworn notice of claim to Defendants. Plaintiff then filed a sworn notice of claim. The superior court subsequently dismissed Plaintiff's unsworn notice of claim on the ground that the defective notice failed to toll the applicable statute of limitations. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded, holding that Plaintiff should be permitted to amend her notice of claim pursuant to Me. R. Civ. P. 15 and to have the amendment relate back to the original filing date. View "Frame v. Millinocket Reg'l Hosp." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed an action against the Roman Catholic Bishop of Portland, alleging, among other things, that the Diocese improperly concealed its knowledge of improper interactions with minors by Plaintiff's abuser. After the Supreme Court remanded the case, the only claim against the Diocese was the intentional tort of fraudulent concealment. Upon remand, the superior court granted summary judgment for the Diocese. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the superior court correctly concluded that Plaintiff failed to set forth facts that could establish a breach of any duty to disclose a known material fact; and (2) consequently, Plaintiff did not meet his burden of establishing that the Diocese had fraudulently concealed material facts that, if known by Plaintiff or his parents, would have prevented Plaintiffs injuries. View "Picher v. Roman Catholic Bishop of Portland" on Justia Law