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Semian v. Ledgemere Transp., Inc.

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

December 16, 2014

MONICA L. SEMIAN
v.
LEDGEMERE TRANSPORTATION, INC

Argued: October 9, 2014.

Judgment affirmed.

On the briefs: Rebecca S. Webber, Esq., and Stephen B. Wade, Esq., Skelton, Taintor & Abbott, Auburn, for appellant Ledgemere Transportation, Inc.

Terrence D. Garmey, Esq., Gary Goldberg, Esq., and David Kreisler, Esq., Terry Garmey & Associates, Portland, for appellee Monica L. Semian.

H. Ilse Teeters-Trumpy, Esq., Taylor, McCormack & Frame, LLC, Portland, for amicus curiae Bicycle Coalition of Maine.

At oral argument: Rebecca S. Webber, Esq., for appellant Ledgemere Transportation, Inc.

David Kreisler, Esq., for appellee Monica L. Semian.

Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, SILVER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HJELM, JJ.

OPINION

Page 406

HJELM, J.

[¶1] Ledgemere Transportation, Inc. appeals from a judgment entered in the Superior Court (York County, Fritzsche, J.) in favor of Monica L. Semian. The judgment was based on a jury verdict finding Ledgemere liable for injuries that Semian sustained when she rode a bicycle and collided with a bus that it owned and operated. Ledgemere first contends that pursuant to 29-A M.R.S. § 2070 (2010),[1] it cannot be held liable to a cyclist who passes a motorist on the right and that the court erred in failing to grant its motions for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 50(a), (b). Ledgemere also argues that the court erred in declining to instruct the jury on the provisions of 29-A M.R.S. § 2063(2) (2010),[2] which prescribes

Page 407

the circumstances when a cyclist must ride on the right side of a way. We affirm the judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

[¶2] We view the evidence in the light most favorable to Semian. See Castine Energy Constr., Inc. v. T.T. Dunphy, Inc., 2004 ME 129, ¶ 9, 861 A.2d 671. Monica L. Semian, a twenty-year-old student from Romania, arrived in Ogunquit, Maine, in June 2010 to work for the summer. On September 9, 2010, Semian was riding a bicycle on Route 1 in Ogunquit when she was passed by a school bus owned by Ledgemere and operated by its employee, Marcia Finley. Semian caught up with the bus when it was stopped at the intersection of Route 1 and Berwick Road. There, the bus straddled the straight and right-turn lanes, began to move forward, and then paused. Believing the bus would drive straight, Semian continued riding and began to pass the bus on the right, intending to go straight. The bus, however, turned right onto Berwick Road. Unable to stop, Semian hit the side of the bus and then fell under it, suffering extensive injuries when the wheels of the bus ran over her torso.

[¶3] Semian commenced an action for negligence against both Ledgemere and Finley in August 2012.[3] A five-day jury trial began on September 30, 2013. After Semian rested her case-in-chief and again at the close of all the evidence, Ledgemere moved for judgment as a matter of law, see M.R. Civ. P. 50(a), (b), arguing that pursuant to 29-A M.R.S. § 2070, Semian assumed the risk when she passed the bus on the right and that Ledgemere cannot be held liable for the resulting damages. The court denied Ledgemere's motions.

[¶4] Additionally, at trial Ledgemere requested that the court instruct the jury on the provisions of 29-A M.R.S. § 2063(2), specifically, that a cyclist traveling " at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time and place shall drive on the right portion of the way as far as practicable except . . . [w]hen proceeding straight in a place where right turns are permitted . . . ." The trial court concluded that the statute was inapplicable and denied Ledgemere's requested instruction.

[¶5] The jury found that Ledgemere was seventy-five percent negligent and that Semian was twenty-five percent negligent. Because of Semian's comparative negligence, see 14 M.R.S. § 156 (2013), the jury reduced her recoverable damages from $1,000,000 to $750,000, and the court entered judgment for Semian in that amount. The court denied Ledgemere's post-trial motion for a new trial and its renewed ...


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