John O'N'eil Jr., Justice, Superior Court
Joy Janvier and Shaun Janvier were divorced pursuant to a Final Divorce Judgment entered on September 28, 2012. Defendant Shaun Janvier, DMD, PA ("Janvier PA" or "the dental practice") is a Maine Professional Corporation and Defendant Janvier Realty LLC ("Janvier LLC") is a Maine LLC (Janvier PA and Janvier LLC hereinafter referred to collectively as "the businesses"). The businesses are both organized under the laws of Maine; Shaun Janvier is the sole officer and shareholder of Janvier PA and sole manager of Janvier LLC. In the underlying divorce action, the District Court made findings as to the value of the businesses, which were both awarded to Shaun Janvier. (Def.'s Mot. Dismiss Ex. A.) The Law Court affirmed the District Court's conclusion that the dental practice was not marital property subject to equitable division. (Def.'s Mot. Dismiss Ex. B.) This action, brought by Plaintiff Joy Janvier, alleges the businesses engaged in economically oppressive behavior by transferring funds between them, concealing funds and income, and otherwise depriving the Plaintiff of rental income and property. (Compl. 2-3.) Before the court is Defendants' motion to dismiss. M.R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).
A. Motion to Dismiss Standard
In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court views the facts in the complaint as admitted, Saunders v. Tisher, 2006 ME 94, ¶ 8, 902 A.2d 830, and then considers whether the complaint "sets forth elements of a cause of action or alleges facts that would entitle the plaintiff to relief pursuant to some legal theory." Doe v. Graham, 2009 ME 88, ¶ 2, 977 A.2d 391 (citation omitted). To dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court must determine it is "beyond doubt that [the] plaintiff is entitled to no relief under any set of facts that might be proven in support of the claim.'" Plimpton v. Gerrard, 668 A.2d 882, 885 (Me. 1995).
The Defendants move to dismiss, arguing the Plaintiffs claims were or could have been raised in the divorce action and are therefore barred by res judicata.
B. Res Judicata
"The law is plain that [parties] cannot again come forward in the same legal mission against the same parties to secure a remedy . . . previously denied." Portland Water Dist. v. Town of Standish, 2008 ME 23, ¶ 7, 940 A.2d 1097. Res judicata consists of two subsidiary doctrines: issue preclusion and claim preclusion. Issue preclusion, or collateral estoppel, "prevents the relitigation of factual issues already decided if'the identical issue was determined by a prior final judgment, and ... the party estopped had a fair opportunity and incentive to litigate the issue in a prior proceeding.'" Machias Sav. Bank v. Ramsdell, 1997 ME 20, H 11, 689 A.2d 595 (citation omitted). Claim preclusion prevents a party from relitigating the same claim where "(1) the same parties or their privies are involved in both actions; (2) a valid final judgment was entered in the prior action; and (3) the matters presented for decision in the second action were, or might have been litigated in the first action." Id. Courts apply collateral estoppel "on a case-by-case basis." Beal v. Allstate Ins. Co., 2010 ME 20, ¶ 17, 989 A.2d 733.
1. Rule 12(b)(6) and Res Judicata
The Plaintiff first contends that the procedural posture of this case precludes dismissal for res judicata. (PL's Obj. Def.'s Mot. Dismiss 2.) This is incorrect. See Sargent v. Sargent, 622 A.2d 721, 723 (Me. 1993) ("A Rule 12(b)(6) motion is appropriate to raise the affirmative defense of res judicata only if the facts establishing the defense appear on the face of the complaint.") If facts in the complaint met the res judicata elements above, then dismissal under a Rule 12(b)(6) motion would be appropriate. In Sargent, the Law Court went on to note that where "matters outside the pleadings" raise facts outside the complaint, the court has discretion to convert the motion into one for summary judgment under Rule 56. Id. n.3. The posture of the Defendants' motion, by itself, does not preclude a ruling on a res judicata defense.
2. Res Judicata Does Not, At This Stage, Preclude the Plaintiffs Claims
Defendants argue the central factual issue-whether any economic misconduct
surrounding the businesses occurred-was decided by the District Court in the divorce case and is therefore barred here. The Defendants' arguments rest on a single statement from the court's spousal support analysis: "Despite suggestions to the contrary, Defendant court [sic] did not commit economic misconduct." (Def.'s Mot. Dismiss Ex. A at 7.) Extensive analysis and consideration is not necessary for res judicata to apply. See Mut. Fire Ins. Co. v. Richardson, 640 A.2d 205, 208 (Me. 1994) (passing mention of spouse's responsibility for burning down house during alimony analysis sufficient to hold issue precluded under collateral ...