Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court

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At issue was the availability of homeowner’s liability insurance coverage for damages resulting from injuries Jonathan Ben-Ami received after Joshua Francoeur, a fellow high-school student, punched Ben-Ami a number of times in the face. Francoeur was the son of the named insured under a policy issued by Vermont Mutual Insurance Company. The superior court entered a declaratory judgment determining that Francoeur’s tortious conduct did not fall within a policy exclusion from coverage for bodily injury that is “expected or intended,” and therefore, that Ben-Ami was entitled to indemnification under the policy. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment and remanded for entry of judgment for Vermont Mutual, holding that Francoeur’s specific conduct established that the damages he inflicted on Ben-Ami were “expected” and therefore excluded from coverage by the Vermont Mutual policy. View "Vermont Mutual Insurance Co. v. Ben-Ami" on Justia Law

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In this professional negligence action, the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court concluding that Defendant, a medical center, was not negligent when it discharged Plaintiffs’ father, who died the night he was discharged. After a bench trial, the superior court concluded that Defendant was not negligent when it discharged the decedent over the objection of his guardians and that the discharge plan met the standard of care. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the superior court (1) did not err in concluding that, at the time he was discharged, Defendant had regained capacity to make his own health-care decisions and that Defendant’s discharge plan met the standard of care; and (2) did not err in denying Defendant’s request for costs for expert witness fees and expenses incurred during the prelitigation screening panel process. View "Oliver v. Eastern Maine Medical Center" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment in an order that resulted in judgment for all defendants on Plaintiff’s complaint, holding that the proceedings below were without error. Plaintiff filed this action against judges and other court employees, the Board of Overseers of the Bar, the Maine Commission in Indigent legal Services, and the Lewiston Sun Journal challenging Defendants’ actions in an attorney disciplinary proceeding before the Board that resulted Defendant’s two-year suspension from the practice of law with conditions imposed on Plaintiff’s practice. Plaintiff’s complaint asserting numerous causes of action and allegations against Defendants. The superior court entered judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the superior court did not err in ruling that (1) most defendants were protected by statutory or common law immunities, (2) there were no disputes of fact regarding Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants, and (3) Defendants were entitled to judgment as a matter of law. View "Carey v. Board of Overseers of the Bar" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the superior court denying Benton, LLC’s motion for summary judgment and rejecting its claim that section 104 of the Maine Workers’ Compensation Act of 1992, Me. Rev. Stat. 39-A, 104, provided it with immunity from Chauncey Clark’s negligence suit for injuries sustained on Benton, LLC’s property in Benton, Maine. On appeal, Benton, LLC argued that an extension of the dual persona doctrine regarding the scope of the Act’s immunity and exclusivity provisions provided it with immunity from Clark’s suit as a matter of law. Specifically, Benton, LLC argued that once Clark’s actual employer secured workers’ compensation for Clark’s injuries and lost wages, section 104 of the Act immunized the employer and Benton, LLC from Clark’s negligence action because those entities were “functionally one and the same.” The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that the superior court did not err as a matter of law by determining that the dual persona doctrine’s exception to an employer’s immunity was inapposite to the assertion of immunity by Benton, LLC. View "Clark v. Benton, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding that Plaintiff was abused by Defendant and granting a two-year extension of a protection from abuse order to Plaintiff. The Court held (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding abuse and extending the original protection from abuse order; (2) the trial court gave Defendant sufficient notice of the issues to be addressed in the hearing on the extension of the original order; and (3) there was sufficient evidence to justify extension of the protection from abuse order for two years, with the addition of prohibitions that by federal law had the effect of prohibiting Defendant from possessing firearms that included an express directive prohibiting his possession of firearms. View "Doe v. Tierney" on Justia Law

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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