Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court

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At issue was whether, when the defendant has caused a physical invasion of the plaintiff’s property, the plaintiff must present evidence of a specific diminution in market value in order to successfully prove nuisance. An oil tanker owned and operated by Defendant overturned, resulting in more than 9,000 gallons of oil and kerosene spilled from the tanker and onto property belonging to Plaintiffs. The superior court entered judgment upon a jury verdict awarding Plaintiffs compensatory damages in the amount of $490,000 on Plaintiffs’ claim of nuisance. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred when it denied Defendant’s motions for judgment as a matter of law on the nuisance claim because Plaintiffs did not present any evidence of a specific diminution in market value of their land due to the spill. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiffs in this case did not need to show a specific depreciation in the market or rental value of the land, and therefore, the trial court did not err when it denied Defendant’s motions for judgment as a matter of law on the nuisance claim; and (2) the trial court did not err when it allowed Plaintiffs to introduce evidence of the conduct of Defendant’s insurer at trial. View "West v. Jewett & Noonan Transportation, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the district court’s grant of partial summary judgment in favor of Avis Rent A Car System, LLC on Avis’s claim for breach of contract but vacated the court’s award of damages. Defendant, a Maine resident, rented a car from an Avis location in Las Vegas, Nevada. The vehicle was damaged when it was involved in an accident in Las Vegas. When Defendant refused to pay for the damages, Avis filed a complaint against Defendant, alleging breach of connect and negligence. The district court concluded that Avis was entitled to partial summary judgment on the breach of contract claim as a matter of law. After an evidentiary hearing, the court granted Avis its requested amount of $15,342 and also awarded attorney fees and costs. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed in part, holding that partial summary judgment as to liability was correctly granted but because Avis presented no admissible evidence as to the amount of damages, it failed to prove it was entitled to the damages awarded to it. The Court then remanded the case for an award of nominal damages in accordance with Nevada law. View "Avis Rent A Car System, LLC v. Burrill" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the decision of the Appellate Division affirming the order of the Workers’ Compensation Board (Board) requiring Plaintiff’s former employer (Defendant) to pay for medical marijuana used to treat Plaintiff’s chronic back pain. Plaintiff was issued a certification to use medical marijuana to treat his pain after sustaining a work-related injury. Plaintiff filed a “petition for payment of medical and related services” with the Board seeking payment from Defendant for the cost of the medical marijuana. Defendant opposed the petition, arguing that an order requiring it to pay for Plaintiff’s medical marijuana was barred by the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) even if his use of medical marijuana were permitted by the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act (MMUMA). A hearing officer granted Plaintiff’s petition, and the Appellate Division affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the Appellate Division, holding (1) in the narrow circumstances of this case, there was a positive conflict between federal and state law; and (2) consequently, the CSA preempts the MUUMA as applied here. View "Bourgoin v. Twin Rivers Paper Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendant on Plaintiffs’ defamation action. The trial court concluded that Plaintiffs failed to make the necessary prima facie showing that Defendant acted with actual malice. The Supreme Judicial Court held that no genuine issue of material fact existed and that Defendant was entitled to summary judgment because Plaintiffs failed to produce any evidence of the sort required to establish actual malice - such as evidence of Defendant’s negligence, motive, and intent - and, therefore, Plaintiffs could not prevail at trial. View "Plante v. Long" on Justia Law

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Alan Miller, acting “individually and in the right of” and for the benefit of SAM Miller, Inc. (SMI), filed a second amended complaint against Miller’s Lobster Company, Inc. (MLC), Steve Miller, and Mark Miller (collectively, the Millers) seeking injunctive relief and damages arising out of the lease of wharf property by SMI to MLC. The court granted the Millers’ and SMI’s motions for summary judgment, concluding that Alan Miller’s claims were barred on limitations grounds. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Alan’s action was barred by the applicable statute of limitations and that Alan did not meet his burden to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the limitations period was nevertheless tolled or otherwise inapplicable. View "Miller v. Miller" on Justia Law

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Dawn Haskell and Martin Witham (together, Plaintiffs) filed a complaint against Grover Bragg and Donald York (together, Defendants), asserting a claim for negligence against Defendants. Bragg did not timely file an answer after being served and did not otherwise appear in or defend in the matter. The clerk entered a default against Bragg. The court awarded compensatory damages based on the allegations in the complaint. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that although the trial court erred when it considered evidence of comparative negligence, the error was harmless because the court found that Plaintiffs were not negligent. View "Haskell v. Bragg" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court finding that the tortfeasor who injured Appellants in a motor vehicle accident was not an underinsured driver pursuant to Maine’s underinsured motorist (UM) statute, and therefore, there was no gap in coverage requiring State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company to pay UM benefits under two policies issued to Appellants. The court held that because Appellants recovered far more from the tortfeasor’s insurers than the maximum amount of UM coverage provided by the State Farm policies, they surpassed the same recovery that would have been available had the tortfeasor been insured to the same extent. Therefore, there was no UM gap that State Farm was responsible to cover. View "Wallace v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding Brian Beaulieu Jr. liable to Greg and Victoria Goodwill for having made fraudulent and negligent misrepresentations about certain amenities in a house that he sold to them and awarding damages. On appeal, Beaulieu asserted that, pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 14, 163, he was entitled to a setoff against the amount of damages he was ordered to pay based on the Goodwills’ settlement with the real estate agency that listed his house. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that the district court did not err by declining to reduce the damage award by the amount of the settlement between the Goodwills and the real estate agency that listed Beaulieu’s house because Beaulieu was not entitled to the setoff as a matter of law. View "Goodwill v. Beaulieu" on Justia Law

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Arthur Murdock, a police officer, was attempting to cut across two eastbound lanes of traffic and into a parking lot when his police cruiser was struck by another vehicle traveling in the outside eastbound lane from behind where Martin Thorne’s car was stopped in traffic. Murdock filed a four-count complaint alleging, as relevant to this appeal, negligence claims against Thorne and underinsured motorist (UM) claims against his employer, the Maine department of Public Safety (DPS). The superior court granted summary judgment for DPS and Thorne. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) because Murdock failed to make a prima facie showing that Thorne’s “wave-on” gesture was the proximate cause of his injuries, Thorne was entitled to summary judgment on Murdock’s negligence claim; and (2) because Murdock’s UM claim against DPS was predicated upon his negligence claim against Thorne, summary judgment was properly granted in favor of DPS. View "Murdock v. Thorne" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff’s fraudulent transfer complaint as having been filed outside the applicable statute of limitations, holding that the court should have treated the motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff brought a complaint against Defendants alleging violations of the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that the applicable six-year statute of limitations ran one day before the date that Plaintiff’s complaint was filed. The district court granted the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Judicial Court held that Plaintiff’s submission of extrinsic evidence converted the motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment, and accordingly, the court erred in failing to proceed with the summary judgment process. View "Acadia Resources, Inc. v. VMS, LLC" on Justia Law