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Rideout v. Jackrabbit Limited Liability Co.

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

February 12, 2015

RONALD RIDEOUT, Plaintiff,
v.
JACKRABBIT LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY, Defendant, CNA/SMRT, INC., Applicant for Intervention

ORDER ON CNA/SMRT, INC.'S MOTION TO INTERVENE

Joyce A. Wheeler Justice, Superior Court

Before the court is CNA/SMRT, Inc.[1] ("SMRT")'s motion to intervene. SMRT contends that the parties in this case reached a binding settlement agreement and seeks to intervene to enforce that agreement. For the following reasons, SMRT's motion to intervene is granted and a hearing shall be scheduled to determine whether the parties reached a binding settlement agreement.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Ronald Rideout was injured after he fell in the parking lot at SMRT, Inc. After the fall, Rideout began receiving workers' compensation benefits from SMRT. In November 2012, Rideout filed this suit against defendant Jackrabbit, the company responsible for maintaining the parking lot.

Attorney Peter Clifford represented Rideout in the case until his motion to withdraw was granted on October 11, 2013. Despite being granted leave to withdraw, Attorney Clifford continued to represent Rideout in settlement negotiations, and he continued to file motions on Rideout's behalf to extend filing deadlines. According to Attorney Clifford's motions filed with the court, the parties believed the case would settle.

Before the agreement was reduced to writing and signed, however, Rideout apparently decided he did not want to settle. In November, Rideout notified the court that he is representing himself. He opposes the motion and argues that Attorney Clifford did not have authority to settle.

Workers' Compensation Law

Under 39-A M.R.S. § 107, an employee claiming benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act may elect to pursue a claim against a third party for damages resulting from the injury. The employer then "has a hen for the value of compensation paid on any damages subsequently recovered against the 3rd person liable for the injury." 39-A M.R.S. § 107 (2014). In this case, Rideout asserts a claim against Jackrabbit, and SMRT will have a lien on the amount he recovers up to the value of its Workers' Compensation payments.

DISCUSSION

Intervention as of Right

An applicant may intervene as of right:

(1) when a statute confers an unconditional right to intervene; or
(2) when the applicant claims an interest relating to the property or transaction which is the subject of the action and the applicant is so situated that the disposition of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the applicant's ability to protect that interest, unless the applicant's interest is adequately represented by existing parties.

M.R. Civ. P. 24(a). In some states, an employer has a statutory right to intervene in an action by an employee against a third-party where the employer has paid benefits to the employee. See, e.g., Nucor Corp. v. Kilman, 186 S.W.3d 720, 734 (Ark. 2004). Maine's statute does not give the employer a statutory right to intervene. The court must therefore determine whether SMRT satisfies the three criteria in M.R. Civ. P. 24(a)(2) to intervene as of right: "(1) [the applicant] must claim an interest in the property or transaction that is the subject of the action; (2) it must be so situated that the disposition of the action may impair or impede its ability to protect its ...


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