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Thurston v. Nguyen

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

February 11, 2015

CARLA and JOHN THURSTON, Plaintiffs
v.
ROBERT NGUYEN and TOWN OF BUXTON, Defendants

ORDER ON MOTION TO SHOW CAUSE

Joyce A. Wheeler Justice

Before the court is the defendants' motion to show cause. A jury trial was held in this case in January 2013, and the jury returned a verdict for the defendants. Defendants filed a bill of costs with the court, which the plaintiffs did not challenge. Plaintiffs filed a motion for a new trial, which was denied by the court on September 17, 2013. On the same day, the court approved defendants' bill of costs and issued an order. The order required the plaintiffs to pay defendants' costs within 10 days of the date of the order.

Plaintiffs appealed the judgment to the Law Court, which affirmed on October 30, 2014. Defendants then filed this motion to show cause because the plaintiffs have not paid the outstanding award of costs.

DISCUSSION

"An order to show cause is not authorized by the Maine Rules of Civil Procedure." Mitchell v. Flynn, 478 A.2d 1133, 1134 n.2 (Me. 1984). The "motion to show cause" simply adds an additional, unnecessary procedural hurdle to what may be accomplished with another motion. Id.

Nevertheless, the court does not agree with defendants that the disclosure process is the exclusive vehicle for plaintiffs to collect their costs. The statutory scheme for enforcing money judgments in the District Court provides that it "is not an exclusive procedure and may be utilized with any other available procedure." 14 M.R.S. § 3120 (2014). It would be a waste of time and resources to require the plaintiffs to initiate a disclosure proceeding when there is already a statutory procedure for challenging an award of costs.

The process for awarding costs is set forth in 14 M.R.S. § 1502-D (2014), which allows a party to challenge an award of costs and argue that imposing costs would cause financial hardship. Plaintiffs failed to timely challenge the award of costs and they do not argue that they lack the ability to pay. The court therefore presumes that plaintiffs have the ability to comply with the order. See Mitchell, 478 A.2d at 1135 ("When the allegedly violated order itself contains an implicit finding of ability to comply at the time the order issued, there arises a presumption that the defendant is also presently able to comply and the plaintiff makes his prima facie case of contempt of court by establishing that the defendant has failed to comply with a valid court order."). If plaintiffs truly believe the costs constitute financial hardship, the court will give the plaintiffs an additional opportunity to file affidavits or other evidence establishing their inability to pay, which they must do within 10 days of this order. Otherwise, if plaintiffs fail to pay, defendants may file a motion for contempt to enforce this court's order awarding costs.

The entry is:

Plaintiffs shall pay the awarded costs, a total of $2, 193.53, or file affidavits or other evidence establishing their inability to pay the awarded costs, within ten (10) days of this order. If plaintiffs fail to comply with this order, defendants may file a motion fur contempt and the court may award sanctions as a penalty for unnecessary delay.

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