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Sunshine v. Brett

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

December 18, 2014

VICTOR SUNSHINE
v.
STEPHEN M. BRETT

Submitted on Briefs: September 23, 2014.

Page 1124

Judgment vacated. Remanded to the Superior Court for entry of judgment for Brett.

On the briefs: Stephen M. Brett, Pro se, appellant.

Gregory J. Orso, Esq., Orso Law, P.A., York, for appellee, Victor Sunshine.

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

OPINION

Page 1125

SILVER, J.

[¶1] Stephen M. Brett appeals from a judgment following a jury trial in the Superior Court (York County, Fritzsche, J.) in favor of local road commissioner Victor Sunshine on Sunshine's complaint to recover several years' worth of unpaid assessments for maintenance on a private road. Brett asserts that the road association failed to strictly comply with the requirements of the Private Ways Act, 23 M.R.S.A. § § 3101-3104 (1998 & Supp. 2004),[1] and that it therefore lacks the authority to collect assessments. We vacate the judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

[¶2] Ocean Circuit Drive (OCD) is a private road in Cape Neddick that provides access to sixteen parcels of property.[2] Eleven of the parcels contain homes and five are unimproved. Beginning in 1992, residents who lived along the road informally appointed a road commissioner to handle arrangements for maintenance and plowing of the road.[3] In 2003, the group of neighbors decided to form a road association pursuant to the Private Ways Act. Donna Hayford, one of the residents of OCD, sent notice of the association's first meeting to all residents who, in her judgment, used OCD " on a regular basis." She contacted everybody who " use[d] the road, that benefited from the road," but she did not notify the owners of all sixteen lots with rights of access over OCD.

Page 1126

[¶3] At the association's first meeting in 2004, Hayford was elected road commissioner and all of the attendees, including Brett, signed a " Road Maintenance Agreement." The attendees also unanimously agreed that owners of lots without structures would not be billed for maintenance because they did not make as much use of the road, and those who lived east of Lake Carolyn, closer to the public road, would each contribute only 75% of a share, while homeowners living further down the private road would each contribute 125% of a share.

[¶4] A few days later, Brett placed a letter in Hayford's mailbox indicating that he was revoking his signature on the agreement and requesting additional documentation concerning the division of maintenance costs. The letter stated that Brett would remit payment upon receipt of the requested materials. Although Hayford provided the documentation he requested, Brett never attended another association meeting and never paid any of the bills he received from the association. The association continued to bill Brett annually for his share of maintenance ...


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