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Mechanics Savings Bank v. Town of Richmond

Superior Court of Maine, Sagadahoc

May 27, 2014

MECHANICS SAVINGS BANK, Plaintiff
v.
TOWN OF RICHMOND and MALAMUTE INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT, INC., Defendants and HOWARD HOFFMAN, Party-in-Interest

For Plaintiff: Mechanics Savings Bank, Auburn, ME; Sonia Buck, Esq., Linnell, Choate & Webber, Auburn, ME.

For Defendants: Malamute Investment Management, Inc., Scarborough, ME; Town of Richmond, Town of Richmond; Elliott R. Teel, Esq., Portland, ME.

For Party-in-Interest: Howard Hoffman, Scarborough, ME.

DECISION AND JUDGMENT

Andrew M. Horton, Justice, Superior Court.

Before the court is plaintiff Mechanics Savings Bank's [Mechanics] motion for summary judgment. Mechanics' properly supported facts are deemed admitted because defendants have been precluded from filing opposing facts. ( See 3/27/14 Order.) The court elects to decide the Motion without oral argument See M.R Civ. P. 7(b)(7).

Background

This case is about who owns the property at 19 Frog Lane in Richmond, Maine. Defendant Malamute Investment Management, Inc. (" Malamute") conveyed the property to Celia Winslow in 2006. (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 2.) Party-in-Interest Howard Hoffman is the sole shareholder and owner of Malamute and is also married to Celia Winslow. (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 3.) On December 27, 2006, Winslow granted a mortgage to plaintiff Mechanics. (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 5.) The mortgage accurately described the property but failed to include the Frog Lane street number assigned to the property. (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 6.) This omission created future taxing errors that gave rise to this case.

Celia Winslow defaulted on her mortgage and Mechanics commenced foreclosure proceedings on April 8, 2008. (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 7.) Mechanics received a judgment of foreclosure, but the judgment incorrectly identified the address of the property as 3 Frog Lane instead of 19 Frog Lane. (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ ¶ 11-12.) Mechanics then obtained title to the property as high bidder at the foreclosure auction. (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 13.) Although the foreclosure deed is correct, the accompanying Maine Real Estate Transfer Tax Form failed to properly identify the property. (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 14.) As a result, the Town of Richmond incorrectly named Mechanics as the owner of Lot 4.1 instead of Lot 4.2 on its tax map. (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ ¶ 15-16.)

The Town of Richmond received notice of the foreclosure, but continued to assess Malamute for the property at 19 Frog Lane.[1] (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ ¶ 8-9.) When the taxes went unpaid from 2008-2011, the Town of Richmond sent the statutorily required tax lien notices to Malamute instead of Mechanics. (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ ¶ 17, 29.) Meanwhile, the Town sent tax lien notices for Lots 4.1 and 4.11 to Mechanics, which Mechanics believed was the property that it owned. (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ ¶ 22-23.) Mechanics paid the tax bill for those properties in January 2012. (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 23.) Eventually, Hoffman paid the outstanding taxes for 19 Frog Lane, despite knowing that neither Malamute nor Winslow owned the property. (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 27.) The Town of Richmond executed a quitclaim deed to Malamute for the property after Hoffman paid the arrears. (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 30.) Only after Hoffman paid the taxes did Mechanics discover the error. (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 28.) The Town of Richmond now recognizes Mechanics as the owner of the property at 19 Frog Lane. (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 36.)

Procedural History

Mechanics filed its complaint on October 26, 2012. It seeks declaratory judgment pursuant to 14 M.R.S. § 5953 that it owns the property located at 19 Frog Lane in Richmond, Maine. Following a discovery dispute between the parties, the court sanctioned defendants for failing to appear for properly noticed depositions and violating a court order. The court ordered that defendants could not file opposing statements of material fact but allowed them to file opposing legal memoranda.

Discussion

1. Standard of Review

" Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue of material fact that is in dispute and, at trial, the parties would be entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fitzgerald v. Hutchins, 2009 ME 115, ¶ 9, 983 A.2d 382. " An issue is genuine if there is sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute to require a choice between the differing versions; an issue is material if it could potentially affect the ...


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