Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court

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Three individuals were passengers in a vehicle driven by Kristina Lowe. Lowe negligently caused the vehicle to crash, and Rebecca Mason and Logan Dam died from injuries they sustained. At the time of the accident, Lowe was a resident at the home of her mother, Melissa Stanley. Stanley had a personal auto insurance policy issued by Amica that provided for $300,000 in liability coverage. The Estates brought wrongful death actions against Lowe, and the parties stipulated to the entry of judgments against Lowe in favor of the Estates in the amount of one million dollars. The Estates then filed reach-and-apply actions against Amica seeking to apply insurance money from Stanley’s policy to the judgments against Lowe. The superior court concluded that the Estates could not reach and apply insurance money from Stanley’s policy toward satisfaction of the judgments against Lowe because the “regular use” exclusion in the policy applied to preclude coverage for Lowe’s negligent use of the car. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the regular use exclusion in Stanley’s policy applied to preclude coverage in this case. View "Estate of Mason v. Amica Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In 2014, the City Council of South Portland enacted an ordinance prohibiting the bulk loading of cure oil on marine tank vessels in South Portland. In 2015, the Portland Pipeline Corporation and American Waterways Operators (PPLC) sued the City of South Portland and its Code Enforcement Officer in federal court, arguing that the ordinance was unconstitutional. The complaint requested only nonmonetary relief. The City notified the Maine Municipal Association Property & Casualty Pool (Pool), which provides liability coverage to the City and its public officials, of the lawsuit and requested a defense, which the Pool declined to provide. The City then brought this action alleging breach of the duty to defend. The superior court granted summary judgment for the Pool, concluding that the Pool had no duty to defend because the complaint requested only declaratory and injunctive relief, not damages, and therefore, there was no potential that the City could be liable for damages within the scope of coverage. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed on different grounds, holding that the Pool had no duty to defend because any potential damages would be excluded from coverage. View "City of South Portland v. Maine Municipal Association Property & Casualty Pool" on Justia Law

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After acquiring a parcel of oceanfront property, Osprey Landing, LLC purchased a title insurance policy from First American Title Insurance Company. In connection with litigation with neighboring landowners, the subject property’s previous owner executed affidavits and a deposition that Osprey claimed created the risk of a future public prescriptive easement claim adverse to Osprey’s title. Osprey sent a request to First American invoking title insurance coverage asking First American to take some action to either perfect osprey’s title or compensate Osprey for this perceived title defect. First American declined, and Osprey filed suit to enforce First American’s purported duty to defend and indemnify Osprey. The superior court granted First American’s motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Miller’s statements did not create a “triggering event” requiring First American to take any action, and no obligation was imposed on First American under these circumstances to preemptively indemnify Osprey. View "Osprey Landing, LLC v. First American Title Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Barnie’s Bar & Grill, Inc. held an insurance policy by the United States Liability Insurance Company (USLIC) when Barnie’s was sued for negligence in connection with one man’s attack by a group of other patrons of the bar. USLIC declined to defend Barnie’s in the litigation, relying on the policy’s exclusions for assault and battery. Barnie’s sued USLIC in superior court seeking a declaratory judgment that USLIC had a duty to defend it and seeking damages for breach of contract. The superior court granted summary judgment for USLIC, concluding that USLIC had no contractual duty to defend Barnie’s. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that USLIC was not obligated to defend Barnie’s in the underlying litigation because the allegations of the underlying complaint fell squarely within the policy’s exclusions for assault and battery. View "Barnie's Bar & Grill, Inc. v. United States Liability Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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Jon and Winifred Prime brought suit against Dawn Harlor stemming from a dispute over the Primes’ right to use a dock according to an easement Harlor had granted the the Primes. At all relevant times, Harlor was insured by Amica Mutual Insurance Company under a homeowner’s insurance policy providing that Amica would defend Harlor against claims that may result in covered damages. Amica denied Harlor’s request that Amica provide a defense in the underlying suit based on its conclusion that the suit could not result in covered damages. After Harlor settled the suit with the Primes, Harlor brought suit against Amica alleging that Amica breached the policy by failing to defend her in the underlying lawsuit. The superior court granted summary judgment for Amica, concluding that any damages that might have resulted from the underlying suit would not be covered by Harlor’s policies and, therefore, did not give rise to a duty to defend. The Supreme Court vacated the summary judgment and remanded for the entry of summary judgment in favor of Harlor, holding that Amica breached its duty to defend. Remanded for further proceedings regarding Amica’s duty to indemnify Harlor for any or all of the amount that she paid to settle the underlying action. View "Harlor v. Amica Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who was injured when the car she was driving was rear-ended by an underinsured motorist, claimed uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and medical payments coverage under two State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company policies. An arbitration panel found that the accident caused Plaintiff $378,000 in damages, $125,000 of which were identified as medical costs. The parties' dispute regarding the extent of coverage available to Plaintiff proceeded to trial. The superior court determined that only one of the State Farm policies covered Plaintiff, deferred to the arbitration award as to Plaintiffs' actual damages, established the amount owed by State Farm, and reduced the arbitration award accordingly. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) the superior court correctly determined that only one of the policies covered Plaintiff, but (2) the court’s decision regarding the amount due under that policy was in error. Remanded. View "Graf v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was driving her car when she was struck from behind from an underinsured motorist. Plaintiff claimed uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) coverage and medical payments under two State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company policies and filed a complaint against State Farm seeking coverage pursuant to both policies. The parties agreed to arbitrate the amount of damages caused by the accident but to have a court decide any issues relating to the amount of UM/UIM coverage available to Plaintiff through the policies. An arbitration panel found that the accident caused Plaintiff damages of $378,000. Thereafter, the superior court concluded that Plaintiff had UM/UIM coverage under only one of the State Farm policies, deferred to the arbitration award as to Plaintiff’s actual damages, determined that she was entitled to $250,000 from State Farm, and reduced the arbitration award accordingly. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding that the superior court did not err in concluding that Plaintiff was entitled to coverage under only one of the State Farm policies but erred in deciding calculating the amount due under that policy. Remanded. View "Graf v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Arthur Murdock, then a lieutenant with the Maine State Police, was injured when his cruiser was struck by another vehicle after Martin Thorne indicated that Murdock could turn in front of him into an intersection. Murdock filed a four-count complaint alleging negligence against Castigliola and Thorne and seeking uninsured motorist coverage from the Maine Department of Public Safety (DPS). The superior court granted the motions for summary judgment filed by both DPS and Thorne. Murdock appealed, and DPS cross-appealed. The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed the appeals, holding that the superior court improvidently granted Murdock’s motion to enter final judgment on Murdock’s claims against Thorne and DPS pursuant to Me. R. Civ. P. 54(b)(1). View "Murdock v. Thorne" on Justia Law

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Paul Galipeau was involved in a fatal accident while riding his motorcycle. Galipeau and his wife were insured under four vehicle policies issued by State farm, one on the motorcycle and the others covering three different vehicles. Each of the policies provided uninsured motorist (UM) coverage with a per-person limit of $100,000. The Estate demanded from State Farm the aggregate of each policy’s UM coverage limit, less the $50,000 recovered from the tortfeasor. State Farm paid the differential between the motorcycle policy UM limit and the amount already recovered by the Estate and otherwise refused the demand. The Estate subsequently sued State Farm for wrongful denial of coverage. The superior court entered judgment for State Farm, ruling that coverage under the three non-motorcycle policies was precluded by an “other-owned-vehicle” exclusion that each policy contained. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the superior court did not err in entering summary judgment for State Farm on the ground that the other-owned-vehicle exclusion in the four policies precluded coverage under the three non-motorcycle policies. View "Estate of Galipeau v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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William Googins committed an intentional assault of Eric Benson, which resulted in Benson’s death. Benson’s estate sued Googins in tort. Googins consented to a judgment in favor of the Estate and assigned to the Estate all rights he may have had against Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Company, whose potential liability stemmed from a homeowner’s policy it issued to Goggins’s grandmother that was active at the time of the assault. Pursuant to the agreement, the superior court entered a judgment against Googins, after which the Estate filed a reach-and-apply action against Metropolitan. Metropolitan filed a complaint for declaratory judgment seeking a determination as to its obligation to indemnify Googins. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of Metropolitan, declaring that it had no contractual obligation to indemnify Googins. Specifically, the court found that the claim was precluded by an intentional loss exclusion because Googins intentionally assaulted Benson. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the superior court did not err in determining that Googins’s conduct was within the scope of the intentional loss exclusion. View "Metro. Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Estate of Benson" on Justia Law