Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Court

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U.S. Bank National Association (the Bank) filed an amended complaint for residential foreclosure against Thomas Manning. The case progressed through its pretrial stages. Eventually, the superior court dismissed the Bank’s foreclosure complaint with prejudice as a sanction for the Bank’s failure to comply with the court’s discovery order. The Bank appealed, arguing that the court abused its discretion in dismissing the complaint under the circumstances and that the court erred at several points as the case proceeded through its procedural steps. The Supreme Court agreed with the Bank and vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding that the order dismissing the Bank’s complaint with prejudice was an abuse of the court’s discretion. View "U.S. Bank N.A. v. Manning" on Justia Law

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The Cote Corporation filed a mechanic’s lien against real property owned by Kelley Earthworks, Inc. Cote subsequently brought a complaint to enforce the lien against Kelley. Kelley did not respond to the complaint or to Cote’s motion for summary judgment. The superior court entered Kelley’s default and then entered judgment for Cote, plus interest and attorney fees, and ordered that the property be sold to satisfy the judgment. Kelley appeared ten days after the judgment was entered on the docket and filed motions to set aside its default and for relief from the judgment. The court declined to set aside the default but did strike its order to sell the real property, instead awarding Cote a money judgment. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that the court erred in striking the provision of its order requiring a sale of the property. Remanded for entry of an order for the sale of at least a portion of Kelley’s land. View "The Cote Corp. v. Kelley Earthworks, Inc." on Justia Law

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Scott Greenleaf executed a promissory note to Residential Mortgage Services, Inc. (RMS). That same day, Greenleaf signed a mortgage on property securing that debt. The mortgage listed RMS as the lender of the debt and Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS) as the nominee for the lender. MERS subsequently assigned its interest in the mortgage and note to Countrywide Home Loans Servicing, LP (BAC). BAC then merged with Bank of America, N.A. (Bank). Five years later, the Bank instituted foreclosure proceedings against Greenleaf. The district court entered a judgment of foreclosure in favor of the Bank. Greenleaf appealed, arguing that the Bank lacked standing to foreclose on the property. The Supreme Court agreed with Greenleaf and vacated the judgment, holding (1) the Bank proved its status as the holder of the note but failed to establish its ownership of Greenleaf’s mortgage; and (2) because the Bank failed to satisfy two of the Higgins foreclosure requirements, the Bank was not entitled to a judgment of foreclosure in any event. View "Bank of Am., N.A. v. Greenleaf" on Justia Law

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In 2009, David and Debra Sawyer defaulted on a mortgage held by U.S. Bank N.A. In 2012, the Bank filed a complaint for foreclosure. At the time the complaint was filed, J.P. Morgan Chase Bank N.A. had taken over as loan servicer. Four court-ordered mediations subsequently took place, during which time the Sawyers attempted to negotiate a modification with Chase. The mediations were unsuccessful, largely due to Chase’s repeated delays and requests to submit documentation that the Sawyers had already submitted. At a show cause hearing, the superior court subsequently dismissed the Bank’s complaint with prejudice, concluding that the Bank was not prepared to proceed at the hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the sanction was not excessive under the circumstances, and (2) there was evidence that the Sawyers were prejudiced by the Bank’s failure to participate in the mediation process in good faith. View "U.S. Bank, N.A. v. Sawyer" on Justia Law

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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

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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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After the City of Portland entered into negotiations to sell a portion of Congress Square Park (Park), an urban park in the City’s ownership, Friends of Congress Square Park (Friends) filed a citizens’ initiative to amend the City’s land bank ordinance, which would (1) create a new category of land bank property and designate certain parcels, including the Park, as belonging in that category; and (2) require approval of eight of nine City Council members to dispose of property in the land bank. The City declined to issue petition forms pursuant to the procedure set forth in section 9-36 of the City Code because, inter alia, the proposed amendments did not affect any legislative matters. The City Council subsequently approved the sale of a portion of the Park. On judicial review, the superior court concluded that the petition was a proper subject of a citizens’ initiative and entered a permanent injunction requiring the City to issue the petition forms. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the amendments proposed by Friends were within the scope of the citizens’ initiative power pursuant to section 9-36(a) of the City Code. View "Friends of Congress Square Park v. City of Portland" on Justia Law

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In 2010, the assessor for the Town of Scarborough valued Plaintiff’s property for the tax year 2010-11 at the same assessed value as set in 2005. Plaintiff subsequently filed an application for a tax abatement, which the assessor denied. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed an application for assessment review with Scarborough’s Board of Assessment Review, arguing that the Town’s assessor substantially overvalued his property. After a hearing, the Board denied Plaintiff’s appeal, concluding that Plaintiff did not meet his burden of showing that the property was substantially overvalued relative to its market value. The Supreme Court vacated the Board’s determination and remanded for a reevaluation of Plaintiff’s property, holding that, in this case, the evidence established that the property was substantially overvalued. View "Terfloth v. Town of Scarborough" on Justia Law

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Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC filed a complaint seeking a judgment of foreclosure against John and Cheryl Bartlett, alleging that the Bartletts had defaulted on a note secured by a mortgage on their home. After Bayview failed to appear at three mediation sessions, the district court dismissed Bayview’s complaint with prejudice, concluding that dismissal was the only appropriate sanction in light of Bayview’s pattern of disruptive behavior. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing Bayview’s action with prejudice, as the district court understood the gravity of the sanction it was imposing, did not improperly rely on the Bartletts’ motions to dismiss, and correctly weighed the applicable facts in making its decision. View "Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC v. Bartlett" on Justia Law