JACLINS WAY ROAD ASSOCIATION BY LAUREN FRIES, Road Commissioner, Plaintiff,
ROBERT MADORE and MICHELLE L. MADORE, Defendants.
John O'Neil, Jr. Justice, Superior Court.
A. Procedural Posture
This is an action for declaratory relief arising out of Robert and Michelle L. Madore's ("the Madores") refusal to pay maintenance fees for the private road, Jaclins Way, benefitting their property. Plaintiff Jaclins Way Association ("the Association") originally brought claims in three counts: Count One for failure to pay assessment fees under 23 M.R.S. § 3101(2), Count Two for equitable estoppel seeking to enforce the road maintenance agreement, and Count Three for unjust enrichment due to the Madores' continued use of the road without payment. The Association has amended its complaint, dropping Counts Two and Three. (PL's Amended Compl. 3-4.) The court previously denied the Association's motion for judgment on the pleadings because an issue of fact remained as to whether the Madores had the opportunity to vote on matters of Jaclins Way maintenance. The Association now moves for summary judgment on the only remaining count.
Jaclins Way is a private way in Kennebunk, Maine. (PL's S.M.F. ¶ 1.) The way benefits four parcels, including the Madores, who live at 11 Jaclins Way. (PL's S.M.F.
¶ 2.) In 2009, a Road Maintenance Agreement ("the Agreement") was drafted and executed by three of the benefitted parcels on Jaclins Way, but the Madores have refused to sign the Agreement and have not contributed to the cost of maintaining the Way, including grading and plowing. (PL's S.M.F. ¶¶ 3-4, 14-15.) The three owners who signed the Agreement have born these expenses between 2009 and 2013, which total "at least $700." (PL's S.M.F. ¶16.)
On July 15, 2013, a meeting was held at which the Association voted on various agenda items related to the maintenance and repair of the Way. (PL's S.M.F. U 8.) Items to elect a road commissioner, authorize repairs, and assess the cost of those repairs equally among the four owners were voted on and passed 3-0. (PL's S.M.F. ¶¶ 8, 11.) The Jaclins Way owners received written notice from a notary public of the meeting, and Defendant Robert Madore attended, but he maintained that the meeting was not legal and elected not to exercise a vote. (PL's S.M.F. ¶¶ 7-8.) The Madores have refused to pay the $1, 250 assessed for 2013 and otherwise refused to pay for repairs and maintenance of the Way. (PL's S.M.F. ¶¶ 12-13.)
A. Summary Judgment Standard
"Summary judgment is appropriate if the record reflects that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Dussault v. RRE Coach Lantern Holdings, LLC, 2014 ME 8, ¶ 12, 86 A.3d 52, quoting F.R Carroll Inc. v. TD Bank, N.A., 2010 ME 115, ¶ 8, 8 A.3d 646. "A material fact is one that can affect the outcome of the case." Mcllroy v. Gibson's Apple Orchard, 2012 ME 59, ¶ 7, 43 A.3d 948, quoting N. E. Ins. Co. v. Young, 2011 ME 89, ¶17, 26 A.3d 794. If facts are undisputed but nevertheless capable of supporting conflicting, plausible inferences, "the choice between those inferences is not for the court on summary judgment." Lewis v. Concord Gen. Mut. Ins. Co., 2014 ME 34, ¶ 10, 87 A.3d 732.
B. Private Way Meetings and Repair Obligations
Under Section 3101(2) governing private ways and repair fees, "When 4 or more parcels of land are benefited by a private road, private way or bridge as an easement or by fee ownership of the private road, private way or bridge, " any three parcel owners (provided the parcels are owned by different individuals) may apply to a public notary to call a public meeting according to the statutory procedure. 23 M.R.S. § 3101(2) (2013).
By a majority vote of the owners present and voting in person or by written proxy or absentee ballot, the owners may determine what repairs and maintenance are necessary and the materials to be furnished or amount of money to be paid by each owner for repairs and maintenance and may determine the amount of money to be paid by each owner for other costs .... The determination of each owner's share of the total cost must be fair and equitable and based upon a formula provided for in the road association's bylaws or adopted by the owners at a meeting called and conducted pursuant to this section.
23 M.R.S. § 3101(5). In construing this provision, the Law Court has held that "a majority vote" means a majority of association members "actually present or represented by proxy at a properly called road association meeting." Goudreau v. Pine ...