Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court

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In this dispute over the location of the boundary between the land of Appellees and the land of Appellants, the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court declaring the location of that boundary line, holding that the superior court did not err or abuse its discretion. On appeal, Appellants generally challenged the discretionary decisions made by the trial court in its management of the proceeding. The Supreme Judicial Court denied the challenges, holding that, contrary to Appellants’ contentions, the trial court did not err or abuse its discretion either in its case management orders or in its findings and conclusions. View "Gammon v. Boggs" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of the Town of Glenburn on its land use violation complaint but vacated the civil penalty imposed by the district court, holding that the record was devoid of any evidence of one of the factors that Me. Rev. Stat. 30-A, 4452(3)(E) requires the court to consider. The land use violation complaint in this case was filed pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 30-A, 4452 and Me. R. Civ. P. 80K. The Supreme Court vacated the civil penalty but otherwise affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not violate Appellant’s procedural due process right by allowing one of the Town’s witnesses to testify by telephone; (2) the district court did not err by not excluding, sua sponte, testimony from the Town’s Code Enforcement Officer concerning a witness’s two out-of-court statements; and (3) on the evidence before it, the district court could not have considered the extent to which the violations on the property may have continued after notification to Appellant - a factor that must be considered by the court before assessing a civil penalty. View "Town of Glenburn v. Pinkham" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court denying Jerry Philogene’s motion to set aside a default and for relief from a judgment, holding that Philogene demonstrated excusable neglect. The default judgment in this case extinguished Philogene’s property rights to $16,545 in cash seized as part of a civil asset forfeiture proceeding, initiated following a motor vehicle stop and the filing of criminal charges connected with Philogene’s operation of the vehicle. After entry of the default judgment, Philogene filed a motion to set aside the default and for relief from the judgment. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that Philogene’s assumption that his criminal attorney was representing him in the civil forfeiture matter did not constitute excusable neglect and that Philogene’s claim that he possessed the $16,545 in order to purchase a car for his sister did not constitute a meritorious defense. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) Philogene showed a reasonable excuse for his inattention to the forfeiture proceedings; and (2) Philogene demonstrated a meritorious defense to the underlying charges. View "State v. Philogene" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated a judgment of foreclosure entered by the district court in favor of M&T Bank following a nonjury trial on M&T Bank’s complaint and remanded for entry of a judgment in favor of Lawrence Plaisted, holding (1) M&T Bank failed to lay a proper foundation for admitting loan servicing records pursuant to the business records exception to the hearsay rule, and (2) M&T Bank failed to prove the amount owed on the note. On appeal, Plaisted argued that the court abused its discretion by admitting Exhibit E pursuant to the business records exception to the hearsay rule and erred in concluding that M&T Bank proved the amount owed on the note. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed, holding that M&T Bank failed to meet its burden of proving the amount owed by presenting evidence of information regarding the original amount of the loan, the total amount paid by the mortgagor, and other information in a form that was both accessible and admissible. View "M&T Bank v. Plaisted" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of the Town of Mount Vernon on its land use violation complaint filed pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 30-A, 4452 and Me. R. Civ. P. 80K, holding that a generator on Landowners’ property was a structure and thus must meet the requirements of the Town’s Land Use Ordinance regarding structures. On appeal from a decision of the Town’s code enforcement officer, the Mount Vernon Board of Appeals determined that a relatively large generator that Landowners had installed on their small lot was a “structure” under the Ordinance. When Landowners failed to comply with the Towns’ request for the removal of the generator, the Town filed a land use violation complaint. The district court determined that the Board’s decision was res judicata as to whether the generator met the definition of “structure” in the Ordinance and found Landowners in violation of the Ordinance, assessing penalty and attorney fees. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly determined that the Board’s decision was binding on Landowners; and (2) the court did not err in finding that Landowners were in violation of the Ordinance and assessing a penalty. View "Town of Mount Vernon v. Landherr" 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 determination of the superior court that Plaintiffs’ Me. R. Civ. P. 80B petition was moot, vacated the declaratory judgment entered by the court, and remanded for dismissal of the complaint in its entirety. At issue was the decision of the Town of Brunswick to sell certain property. Brunswick residents began initiative proceedings to enact an ordinance that would require the Town to retain the parcel for public use. After the requisite number of signatures were obtained, the town council decided to take no further action on the petition. Plaintiffs filed a Rule 80B petition for review of the council’s decision and sought a declaration that the town charter permits voters to enact, by initiative, an ordinance that would overturn the council’s decision to sell the property. The superior court concluded that the Town erred in declining to hold a public hearing on the proposed ordinance but determined that the issue had been rendered moot by the sale of property. The court then entered a declaratory judgment that the voters could not override the council's vote to sell the property. The Supreme Judicial Court held that the lower court correctly determined the Rule 80B petition to be moot and should have done the same regarding the declaratory judgment action. View "Brunswick Citizens for Collaborative Government v. Town of Brunswick" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of foreclosure entered by the superior court in favor of Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, holding that the superior court abused its discretion by admitting into evidence a copy of a notice of default that contained an assertion that it was sent by mail. In answer to a complaint for foreclosure filed by Deutsche Bank, Jesse and Naomi Eddins asserted that the Bank failed to comply with the notice provisions of Me. Rev. Stat. 14, 6111. The matter proceeded to trial. On appeal, the Supreme Judicial Court remanded the matter for entry of judgment for the Eddinses, holding that Deutsche Bank presented no competent evidence that a notice of default was sent to Jesse or that any such notice met the requirements of either section 6111 or the mortgage instrument itself. Therefore, the Bank failed as a matter of law to prove a necessary element of its foreclosure claim, and the Eddinses were entitled to judgment. View "Deutsche Bank National Trust Company v. Eddins" on Justia Law

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The Town of Steuben’s taking of an interest in Rogers Point Road by eminent domain pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 23, 3023 was constitutional because it arose from a public exigency and was for public use. Bayberry Cove Children’s Land Trust filed a complaint challenging the Town’s determinations that the taking of an interest in the road was supported by a public exigency and that the use of the road was public. The superior court affirmed the Town’s decision. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) there was a rational basis in the record to support the Town’s finding of a public exigency; (2) evidence in the record, confirmed by the Trust’s characterization of the public’s right to use the road, definitively established that the interest in the road was taken for a public use; and (3) therefore, the taking was constitutional. View "Bayberry Cove Children's Land Trust v. Town of Steuben" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of Defendants on Bank’s complaint for a residential foreclosure, thus rejecting Bank’s allegations of error. On appeal, Bank argued that the district court erred in denying Bank’s motion to continue the trial and erred in determining that Bank did not lay a proper foundation for admitting loan servicing records pursuant to the business records exception to the hearsay rule. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) Bank did not lay a proper foundation for admitting the loan servicing records at issue pursuant to the business records exception; and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Bank’s motion for a continuance because Bank did not establish a substantial reason as to why a continuance would further the interests of justice. View "Keybank National Ass’n v. Estate of Eula W. Quint" on Justia Law