Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Court

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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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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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The Superintendent of Insurance ordered Guarantee Trust Life Insurance Company (GTL) to pay a civil penalty of $150,000 after finding that GTL violated Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. 24-A, 1420-M(1), 1902, and 2412(1-A)(B), and that GTL was accountable, pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. 24-A, 1445(1)(D) for violations committed by Cinergy Health, Inc., a company that acted as GTL's producer. The business and consumer docket affirmed the decision of the Superintendent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) GTL was accountable pursuant to section 1445(1)(D) for Cinergy's misconduct occurring before the date on which GTL formally appointed Cinergy as its producer; (2) the Superintendent did not err in concluding that GTL provided coverage to Maine residents and was liable under section 2412(1-A)(B); (3) the Superintendent's did not issue an untimely decision pursuant to the plain language of Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. 24-A, 235(2); (4) the Superintendent did not abuse her discretion by holding GTL liable under section 1420-M(1); and (5) the Superintendent did not abuse her discretion by penalizing GTL for violating section 1902. View "Guarantee Trust Life Ins. Co. v. Superintendent of Ins." on Justia Law

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Anne Sullivan-Thorne (Defendant) executed a mortgage on her house in favor of IndyMac Bank, FSB. Cambridge Mutual Fire Insurance Company filed an action against Defendant relating to damage done to the home. As part of the litigation, Defendant filed an action against IndyMac seeking to have all insurance proceeds payable to her alone. IndyMac counterclaimed against Defendant, alleging that Defendant had breached the note and mortgage and that Defendant had caused IndyMac not to receive payment of insurance proceeds in an amount sufficient to repair the property. The superior court dismissed IndyMac's counterclaim and entered a final judgment in which the court ordered that Cambridge re-issue the insurance proceeds and make them payable to Defendant alone. IndyMac later assigned the mortgage to Wilmington Trust Company (Plaintiff), who filed this action seeking a judgment of foreclosure against Defendant. The district court entered summary judgment for Defendant, finding that the action was barred by the doctrine of res judicata. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the district court, holding that because Wilmington's foreclosure claim did not present matters that "were, or might have been, litigated" in the earlier action, the court erred in entering summary judgment for Defendant on claim preclusion grounds. View "Wilmington Trust Co. v. Sullivan-Thorne" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff maintained a homeowners insurance policy with Insurer that excluded from coverage any claims for "injury arising out of the business pursuits" of Plaintiff. In 2011, a third party filed a complaint against Plaintiff, contending that Plaintiff published false and defamatory statements regarding the third party. In response to the complaint, Plaintiff tendered defense of the suit to Insurer, which declined to defend Plaintiff. Plaintiff then filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that Insurer had a duty to defend him in the pending action by the third party. The superior court granted Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded for entry of a summary judgment in favor of Insurer, holding that Insurer had no duty to defend Plaintiff because the third party suit was based entirely on activity falling within the policy's exclusion for Plaintiff's "business pursuits." View "Hardenbergh v. Patrons Oxford Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Paul Dyer held licenses as an insurance producer and consultant. Because of Dyer's alleged misconduct, the Bureau of Insurance filed a petition for enforcement against Dyer alleging that Dyer violated the Maine Insurance Code and seeking the revocation of his licenses and requesting civil penalties and restitution. After a hearing, the Superintendent of Insurance concluded that Dyer violated the identified provisions of the Insurance Code, revoked Dyer's licenses, and ordered him to pay civil penalties and restitution. Dyer appealed the judgment entered in the business and consumer docket affirming the Superintendent's decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Superintendent did not err in interpreting the Insurance Code or in making factual findings and did not abuse his discretion by imposing penalties permitted in the statute. View "Dyer v. Superintendent of Ins." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs purchased property from Charles Johnson. During the pendency of the sale of the property, Johnson misrepresented the condition of the property and failed to disclose its prior use as a junkyard. Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Johnson alleging various causes of action and seeking damages for loss of investment, undisclosed physical problems with the property, and emotional distress. While he owned the disputed property, Johnson maintained a homeowners insurance policy with Allstate Insurance Company. Allstate refused to defend or indemnify Johnson on Plaintiffs' complaint. Plaintiffs and Johnson subsequently reached an agreement resolving the underlying complaint, and the superior court entered a judgment against Johnson for $330,000. Plaintiffs then initiated a reach and apply action against Allstate. The trial court granted summary judgment for Johnson, determining that the policy did not cover the damages Plaintiffs suffered. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs' damages did not constitute covered "bodily injury" or "property damage" pursuant to the Allstate homeowners insurance policy. View "Langevin v. Allstate Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed an action in the U.S. district court against a Maine police officer, alleging that the officer used force in arresting Plaintiff in violation of state and federal law. A jury found the officer liable on Plaintiff's state law negligence claim and awarded Plaintiff $125,000 in damages. The district court amended the judgment to reduce the damages award to $10,000 pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 14, 8104-D. Plaintiff appealed to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. The First Circuit certified two questions for the Supreme Court's review. The Court answered only the first question by holding that whether or not an insurance policy is available to cover a judgment against a government employee sued in his personal capacity, the applicable limit on the award of damages is $10,000 pursuant to section 8104-D rather than $400,000 or the policy limit pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 14, 8105(1) and 8116. View "Fortin v. Titcomb" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff purchased title insurance for a condominium unit she had recently purchased. Plaintiff's neighbor subsequently initiated a lawsuit against Plaintiff alleging that Plaintiff's property was subject to a view easement. Plaintiff tendered the complaint to her title insurance company (Insurer) requesting a defense pursuant to her title insurance policy. Commonwealth denied Plaintiff's request based on certain exclusions in the policy. Plaintiff sued Insurer alleging a breach of contract and requesting a declaratory judgment that Insurer had a duty to defend Plaintiff against her neighbor's complaint. The superior court granted Insurer's motion for summary judgment, finding that the policy specifically excluded the view easement from coverage. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that due to the broad nature of the duty to defend and the law's requirement that insurance-policy interpretation be focused on the insured, Insurer had a duty to defend Plaintiff in the underlying litigation. View "Cox v. Commonwealth Land Title Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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The Superintendent of Insurance found that a Bankers Life and Casualty Company agent engaged in deceptive insurance sales practices in multiple transactions with an elderly woman. Bankers Life and its agents functioned as insurance producers at the relevant time. The Superintendent ordered Bankers Life to pay restitution and a civil penalty of $100,000. The business and consumer docket affirmed the Superintendent's decision. Bankers Life appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Superintendent did not err in her statutory interpretation or factual findings and did not abuse her discretion by imposing restitution and a penalty on Bankers Life based on the evidence presented in the administrative record. View "Bankers Life & Cas. Co. v. Superintendent of Ins." on Justia Law