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Roussel v. Ashby

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

April 28, 2015

JENNIFER ROUSSEL
v.
SHELDON ASHBY

Submitted On Briefs: February 26, 2015.

On the briefs:

Robert C. Andrews, Esq., Portland, for appellant Jennifer Roussel.

Roy T. Pierce, Esq., Jensen Baird Gardner & Henry, Portland, for appellee Sheldon Ashby.

Panel: ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HJELM, JJ.

OPINION

Page 671

HJELM, J.

[¶1] Jennifer Roussel appeals and Sheldon Ashby cross-appeals from a judgment entered in the Superior Court (Cumberland County, Wheeler, J. ) in favor of Roussel after entry of default against Ashby. Roussel's claims arose from Ashby's failure to return a security deposit that she paid in anticipation of renting an apartment from Ashby. Roussel contends that the court erred in failing to award punitive damages and in limiting the award of attorney fees. Ashby contends that the court erred in denying his motion to set aside the entry of default. We affirm the judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

[¶2] The evidence in the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the judgment, supports the following facts. See Estate of Hunt, 2010 ME 23, ¶ 2, 990 A.2d 544. On June 18, 2008, Roussel met with Ashby to discuss renting an apartment located in Portland. Because Ashby

Page 672

wanted to review Roussel's Portland Housing Authority (PHA) file and check her references, they did not sign a lease, but Roussel gave Ashby $2,000 toward the security deposit of $2,100.

[¶3] After reviewing Roussel's PHA file, Ashby agreed to rent her the apartment, but Roussel never moved in. Roussel had obtained a Section 8 voucher, but by the time she met with Ashby on June 18, it was due to expire approximately two weeks later. Roussel believed that, in order to use the voucher, she had to find an apartment and have it inspected by the PHA before the voucher expired. Approximately a week after the meeting, Ashby informed Roussel that he could not guarantee that the apartment would be ready in time for an inspection that had been scheduled for June 30. Roussel then found a different apartment that would be ready for an inspection before the voucher's expiration date, and she sought the return of her security deposit from Ashby.

[¶4] After Ashby did not respond to her demand for the refund, Roussel filed a small claims action in District Court (Portland), and in response Ashby filed a small claims action for lost rent and the expenses he incurred in renting the apartment to another tenant. Roussel then filed a complaint in Superior Court, alleging (1) breach of the warranty of habitability; (2) breach of the warranty of quiet enjoyment; (3) conversion of personal property; (4) wrongful retention of the security deposit pursuant to 14 M.R.S. § 6033 (2014); and (5) unfair and deceptive trade practices pursuant to 14 M.R.S. § 6030 (2014). In September 2009 the District ...


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