Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court
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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court in favor of Gagne & Son Concrete Blocks, Inc. on the claims brought by Thomas and Lisa Coward that arose out of an accident at the Cowards' home involving Thomas's son, Philip Coward, holding that the court misapplied the contemporaneous perception factor as articulated in precedent regarding bystander actions.Philip died after a one-ton load of rebar fell on him while a Gagne & Son employee was unloading the rebar from a truck using a forklift. The Cowards' complaint alleged, in part, claims of bystander negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED). The Cowards argued that Thomas contemporaneously perceived the accident because he heard the accident occur, arrived seconds later, and witnessed his injured son die. The trial court entered summary judgment against Thomas on his bystander NIED claim, concluding that Thomas did not meet the contemporaneous perception factor for a bystander NIED claim. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a bystander may satisfy the "contemporaneous perception" element by demonstrating that he otherwise perceived that event as it occurred and then witnessed the immediate aftermath of that event; and (2) Gagne & Son was not entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. View "Coward v. Gagne & Sons Concrete Blocks, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the portion of the superior court's judgment granting, in part, Defendant's special motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' amended complaint pursuant to Maine's Anti-SLAPP statute, Me. Rev. Stat. 14, 556, holding that the court erred in dismissing Count 1 of the complaint regarding Defendant's service of the notice of claim.Defendant served Plaintiffs with a notice of claim asserting, among other claims, defamation. Defendant did not file a complaint after serving the notice of claim. Plaintiffs later filed a seven-count complaint against Defendant. The superior court granted Defendant's special motion to dismiss as to two of the four counts in the amended complaint and authorized an award of attorney fees to Defendant. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) Defendant's notice of claim was not petitioning activity as defined in the Anti-SLAPP statute, and therefore, the court erred in dismissing Count 1; and (2) the court did not err in determining that it could award attorney fees to Defendant, and therefore, the cause is remanded for the trial court to decide whether an award of attorney fees is warranted as to the two remaining counts. View "Pollack v. Fournier" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Appellant's complaint for protection from harassment against Gladys Cassese, holding that Me. Rev. Stat. 5, 4654(1) does not always preclude the court from adjudicating a protection from harassment complaint without first holding a hearing.On appeal, Appellant argued that the court was required to hold a hearing before adjudicating his complaint and that, alternatively, the court erred when it dismissed his complaint for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) a court is not prohibited in all circumstances from dismissing a protection from harassment complaint without first holding a hearing; and (2) the trial court did not err in dismissing Appellant's complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. View "Anctil v. Cassese" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting Pat Doe's request for a ten-year extension of a protection from abuse order against Donald McLean, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion.On appeal, Doe argued that the district court erred by refusing to hold a hearing on the issue of whether abuse had occurred and in declining to hold a hearing on her request for attorney fees. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the court's rejection of Doe's request to treat her motion to extend as a motion to modify that included a finding of abuse was well within the court's discretion; and (2) the court's decision not to award attorney fees was not an abuse of its discretion. View "Doe v. McLean" on Justia Law

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In this case involving the report of a neutral investigator - an employee of a law firm and the law firm - retained to provide a report to a governmental entity in a personnel matter, the Supreme Judicial Court held that that the employee and the law firm were protected by the employee immunity provision of the Maine Tort Claims Act (MTCA), Me. Rev. Stat. 14, 8108-8188.Appellee filed a claim alleging that Appellants, a law firm and its nonattorney employee, were negligent and preparing and presenting an investigative report regarding Appellee's conduct while serving as the coordinator of the University of Southern Maine's Multi-Cultural Student Affairs. The district court denied Appellants' special motion to dismiss pursuant to the anti-SLAPP law and denied Appellants' motion asserting immunity pursuant to the MTCA. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order on the special motion to dismiss and vacated the motion to dismiss on MTCA grounds, holding (1) the trial court correctly determined that the investigative report at issue in this appeal did not constitute petitioning activity within the meaning of the anti-SLAPP statute; and (2) because Appellants were performing a governmental function on behalf of a governmental entity, the trial court erred in denying the motion to dismiss based on MTCA immunity. View "Hamilton v. Woodsum" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the summary judgment entered in the superior court in favor of Defendants on Plaintiff's complaint for defamation and "slander/libel per se," holding that the superior court did not err in concluding that the statements at issue were subject to a conditional privilege.Plaintiff sought compensatory and punitive damages in her complaint alleging defamation and slander or libel per se, alleging that Defendants terminated her contract as a registered nurse based on false allegations of patient abuse. The superior court granted a summary judgment in favor of Defendants as to both counts. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff failed to present prima facie evidence that Defendants abused the conditional privilege that otherwise protected the statements at issue; and (2) therefore, Defendants were entitled to summary judgment in their favor as to Plaintiff's claims. View "Waugh v. Genesis Healthcare LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed Kathleen Flanders' appeal from an interlocutory order entered by the district court denying Flanders' motion to disqualify Attorney Eric Morse from representing Fern Gordon in a personal injury case, holding that allowing the appeal of this interlocutory order to proceed would not be in the interest of judicial economy.Gordon, the defendant in Flanders' personal injury suit, retained Attorney Morse to defend her. While the lawsuit against Gordon was pending, Flanders was injured in a motor vehicle accident. Flanders sought legal assistance from a partner of Attorney Morse, who continued to represent Gordon in the personal injury suit. Flanders moved to disqualify Attorney Morse, but the court denied the motion. Flanders appealed. The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed the appeal, holding that none of the exceptions to the final judgment rule applied in this case. View "Flanders v. Gordon" on Justia Law

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In this personal injury claim based on premises liability the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the superior court denying Defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground that the facts alleged in the complaint actually constituted an action for medical negligence, holding that Plaintiff's claim was not within the ambit of the Maine Health Security Act (MHSA), Me. Rev. Stat. 24, 2501-2988.In her complaint Plaintiff alleged that she sustained injuries when she slipped and fell in the locker room of a facility owned and run by Defendant. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the claim was actually for medical negligence, which must be brought in accordance with the procedural requirements of the MHSA. The superior court denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the claim was properly brought as a premises liability claim and was not within the purview of the MHSA. View "Salerno v. Spectrum Medical Group, P.A." on Justia Law

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In this case addressing the scope of immunity established by the Legislature for certain injuries suffered through the risks inherent in equine activities, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court holding that the immunity statute precluded the liability that could otherwise arise from the equine activities in this case.Nancy McCandless was standing on a track inside a riding arena when a horse ridden by the ten-year-old daughter of John and Tracy Ramsey made contact with McCandless, causing her to fall and injure her wrist. McCandless sued the child through her parents, seeking damages. The Ramseys moved for summary judgment on the ground that McCandless's negligence action was barred under the statutory immunity provisions of Me. Rev. Stat. 7, 4101 and 4103-A. The superior court granted summary judgment for the Ramseys, holding that section 4103-A(1) provides broad immunity from liability for injuries arising out of equine activities under routine conditions. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the child was entitled to immunity and that none of the statutory exceptions to immunity applied. View "McCandless v. Ramsey" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint for legal malpractice as untimely pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 14, 752, 753-B, holding that the court-made doctrines of continuing representation and continuing negligence do not apply in the determination of the date on which a cause of action for legal malpractice accrued under section 753-B.On appeal, Plaintiff argued that its legal malpractice claim was not barred because the doctrines of continuing representation and continuing negligence operate to bring the date of the act or omission giving raise to its injury within the relevant statute of limitations. The Supreme Judicial Court declined to adopt either doctrine in the context of actions for attorney malpractice, holding that the superior court correctly dismissed the complaint as barred by Maine's six-year statutes of limitations for civil actions and attorney malpractice actions. View "Packgen, Inc. v. Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer & Nelson, P.A." on Justia Law