Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Court

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Defendant entered into a land installment contract that established the terms of a transfer from Plaintiffs to Defendant of a parcel of land. Defendant failed to make the payments required by the contract, and Plaintiffs commenced this action. Defendant argued that because the contract did not comply with 33 Me. Rev. Stat. 482(1) Plaintiffs were barred from obtaining relief. The district court entered a judgment of foreclosure against Defendant and ordered a writ of possession in favor of Plaintiffs, concluding that, even if the contract failed to comply with section 482(1), Plaintiffs would have had could obtain possession of the property through the forcible entry and detainer process. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the contract was enforceable because it was in substantial compliance with section 482(1); and (2) 14 Me. Rev. Stat. 6203-F does not require a court to order a public sale of property when ordering a foreclosure on a land installment contract. View "Thurston v. Galvin" on Justia Law

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A Bank and Re/Max Realty One signed a listing agreement granting Re/Max the exclusive right to sell a certain property. A buyer signed a purchase-and-sale agreement with the Bank and paid $86,900 in earnest money, which Re/Max held in escrow. The buyer later defaulted under the terms of the agreement. Re/Max subsequently procured a second buyer to purchase the property. After participating in mediation, the Bank and the first buyer agreed the divide the earnest money between themselves, with $49,500 going to the Bank and $37,400 to the buyer. Re/Max sent a $37,400 check to the buyer and a check for $24,750 to the Bank, retaining the remaining $24,750. The Bank sued Re/Max for breach of the listing agreement stemming from Re/Max’s retention of $24,750 of the earnest money. The superior court granted summary judgment to the Bank. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding that Re/Max was entitled to summary judgment on the Bank’s breach of contract claim because the unambiguous language of the listing agreement obligated the Bank to divide any forfeited earnest money with Re/Max, including money the Bank received pursuant to its mediated agreement with the first buyer. View "Bank of New York Mellon, N.A. v. Re/Max Realty One" on Justia Law

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Dozens of suits were filed against Irving Oil Limited (IOL) alleging environmental contamination by methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) occurring from 1979 to the present. At the time of this opinion, all of the MTBE suits against IOL had been settled. In 2009, IOL filed a complaint asking the superior court to declare that ACE INA Insurance (ACE) had a duty to defend and indemnify in the MTBE suits. The superior court granted IOL’s motion for summary judgment in part and denied it in part, concluding that it could not declare that IOL was entitled a judgment on the duty-to-defend count as a matter of law. IOL appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed IOL’s appeal and ACE’s cross-appeal, holding that although a decision that an insurer does not have a duty to defend its insured is ordinarily immediately appealable under the death knell exception to the final judgment rule, the exception did not apply in this case because there were no MTBE cases pending against IOL. View "Irving Oil Ltd. et al. v. ACE INA Ins." on Justia Law

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Philip Barter hired Philip Tobin to produce a book encompassing Barter’s artistic works. The parties subsequently entered into a written agreement providing that Tobin would write the text for the book and setting forth the financial arrangements. Tobin drafted a manuscript of the book and gave Barter a draft of the manuscript, but Barter did not respond. Thereafter, Tobin filed a complaint alleging that Barter had breached the parties’ contract. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Tobin. The next day, the trial court granted Barter’s motion for a judgment as a matter of law, concluding that Tobin had failed to present sufficient evidence that the parties had a meeting of the minds necessary to form a legal contract. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded with directions to reinstate the jury’s verdict in favor of Tobin, holding (1) the trial court erred in issuing its judgment in favor of Barter as a matter of law; and (2) a jury rationally could have found that Barter had materially breached the contract by failing to respond to Tobin. View "Tobin v. Barter" on Justia Law

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Edwina Jones rented a residence that she vacated in 2010. Because Jones did not replace heating oil in the residence’s oil tank at the end of her tenancy under the terms of the lease, Cost Management, Inc., the landlord, told Jones that it would return to Jones the $1,500 deposit minus $448, the cost of filling the oil tank. Jones filed a complaint against Cost Management asserting that she was entitled to $1,500, plus statutory double damages, attorney fees, interest and costs. Cost Management counterclaimed for the $448 it paid to fill the tank. The district court found in Jones’s favor on her complaint, found in favor of Cost Management on its counterclaim, and denied Jones’s claims for costs, double damages, and attorney fees under the wrongful-retention statute. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly found that Jones was entitled to receive $1,052 from Cost Management; and (2) because Cost Management overcame the presumption that it wrongfully withheld Jones’s security deposit, the district court did not err by not awarding court costs, double damages, and attorney fees. View "Jones v. Cost Mgmt., Inc." on Justia Law

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When Michael Lewis was sixteen years old, he was involved in a fatal car accident. At the time, Michael was driving a Ford pickup truck he had allegedly purchased from William Dodge. The other driver’s insurer paid Michael’s estate (Estate) its policy limit for liability. Michael’s mother, Angela, was insured by Concord General Mutual Insurance Company (Concord) at the time of the accident, and Michael’s father, David, was insured by Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Company (Allstate). The Concord and Allstate policies provided uninsured motorist (UM) benefits, as did Dodge’s policy with Property and Casualty Insurance Company of Hartford (Hartford). The Estate sought UM benefits from all three insurance companies. Each denied coverage, and the Estate filed suit against each company. The Superior court entered summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether, pursuant to the agreement between Michael and Dodge, a final sale on the truck had been completed by the time of the accident. Remanded. View "Estate of Lewis v. Concord Gen. Mut. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and Defendant each held a one-third interest in property as tenants in common. Plaintiff and Defendant, assisted by counsel, had discussions via email regarding the possible sale of Plaintiff’s interest. The emails stated that Defendant “offered” to acquire Plaintiff’s interest and that Plaintiff “accept[ed]” the offer. Plaintiff subsequently filed a complaint against Defendant seeking, among other things, specific performance of the contract for the sale of his interest in the property to Defendant. The superior court granted partial summary judgment on the specific performance claim, concluding there had been no valid contract formation because the emails between Plaintiff and Defendant did not contain all the material terms necessary to form a contract for the sale of land. The Supreme Court vacated and remanded, holding (1) an email can constitute a writing pursuant to the statute of frauds and the Maine Uniform Electronic Transactions Act; and (2) unresolved issues of material fact existed as to whether a contract for the sale of land was formed in this case. View "McClare v. Rocha" on Justia Law

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Shellie and Robert Symonds executed a lease agreement granting AT&T Mobility the right to use a portion of their property to build a wireless communication tower. The town planning board approved AT&T's application seeking approval for the project. William Horton and others appealed, and the town zoning board of appeals (ZBA) upheld the planning board's approval of AT&T's application. Horton appealed, arguing that the lease agreement created a new lot that did not meet the minimum space and setback requirements of the town's zoning ordinances. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the lease did not create a new lot and that the setback requirements of the relevant zoning ordinance were satisfied. View "Horton v. Town of Casco" on Justia Law

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John Hardy leased part of land to Littlebrook Airport Development Co. (LADC). John Hardy died, leaving his wife Jean as the sole surviving owner of the leased property. In 2005, Jean sold the leased property to and assigned her interest in the lease to Littlebrook Ventures (LV), which executed a mortgage in Hardy's favor. Pursuant to the mortgage LV agreed not to modify the lease without Hardy's prior consent. LADC then assigned its interest in the lease to Windmill USA. Windmill and LV purported to amend the lease in accordance with a previously executed declaration amendment. LV later conveyed the property back to Hardy by a deed in lieu of foreclosure. Hardy purchased the property at a foreclosure sale and conveyed it to Sweet Peas, LLC. Littlebrook Airport Condominium Association then brought this action seeking a declaratory judgment clarifying the rights of the parties pursuant to the lease. At issue was the effectiveness of the unrecorded amendment to the lease that violated the recorded mortgage covenant. The superior court concluded that the lease amendment was effective. The matter came before the Supreme Court on report. The Court discharged the report, concluding that acceptance of the report would improperly place the Court in the role of an advisory board. View "Littlebrook Airpark Condo. Ass'n v. Sweet Peas, LLC " on Justia Law

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Padraic Conroy and Heather Wicks owned real property as tenants in common. In 2010, Wicks filed a complaint seeking an equitable partition and sale of the house, with profits to be split equally between her and Conroy. Following a jury-waived trial, the trial court granted Wicks's petition and ordered the sale of the house. The court ordered the profits to be split equally between the parties subject to a credit due to Wicks for Conroy's rent-free occupancy of the downstairs apartment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the superior court did not err in (1) finding there was no contract in which the parties agreed Conroy would live in the house rent-free; (2) crediting Wicks for one-half of the fair rental value of the downstairs apartment during the period Conroy lived there; and (3) denying Conroy the opportunity to buy out Wicks's interest in the property. View "Wicks v. Conroy" on Justia Law