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Yarcheski v. P&K Sand and Gravel, Inc.

Supreme Court of Maine

June 9, 2015

THOMAS J. YARCHESKI
v.
P&K SAND AND GRAVEL, INC.

Submitted On Briefs: April 23, 2015

On the briefs:

Thomas J. Yarcheski, appellant pro se

Matthew T. Mehalic, Esq., Norman, Hanson & DeTroy, LLC, Portland, for appellee P&K Sand and Gravel, Inc.

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

JABAR, J.

[¶1] Thomas J. Yarcheski appeals from a judgment of the Superior Court affirming a small-claims judgment in favor of P & K Sand and Gravel, Inc. (P&K), and also from the court's denial of his motion to recuse the Superior Court justice. Because Yarcheski raises only factual issues not properly before us on appeal, and because his claims of judicial bias are entirely unfounded, we affirm.

I. FACTS

[¶2] On the morning of November 23, 2011, a wet, heavy snow fell over Naples, where Yarcheski resides. At dawn that morning, Yarcheski heard what he described as a diesel-powered dump truck pass by his home, but he did not see the vehicle. Later that morning, Yarcheski observed that his roadside mailbox was slanted off of its original 90-degree angle to the ground, but he did not observe any damage to the arm, the post, or the mailbox itself. He also observed that snow had been splashed onto his mailbox and street number sign as well as his neighbor's mailbox. Months later, Yarcheski repositioned his mailbox, and when he did so, a copper "breakaway pin" inside the mailbox snapped.

[¶3] Yarcheski filed a small-claims action against P&K, the town's snowplow contractor, seeking $450 for the damage to his mailbox. At the District Court (Bridgton, Moskowitz, J.) hearing, Yarcheski admitted that he never saw P&K's plow truck on November 23, 2011, and that no other witnesses observed anyone damage his mailbox that day. On July 2, 2013, the District Court entered a notice of judgment in favor of P&K, concluding that Yarcheski had not met his burden of proof.

[¶4] Yarcheski appealed to the Superior Court (Cumberland County, Cole, J.), and then filed a motion to recuse the Superior Court justice, citing a previous matter in which the justice had entered a judgment against Yarcheski. The court denied Yarcheski's motion and, after a hearing, affirmed the small-claims judgment by an order dated August 4, 2014. The court concluded that Yarcheski failed to establish beyond mere speculation that P&K had breached a duty or caused the damage to his mailbox. The Superior Court also noted that its review of the small-claims decision was limited to questions of law, and that many of Yarcheski's arguments on appeal were factual. Yarcheski timely appealed to us.[1] See M.R. App. P. 2(b)(3).

II. DISCUSSION

A. Review of the Small-Claims Judgment

[¶5] When, as here, the Superior Court acts in its appellate capacity, we review the District Court's judgment directly. Franklin Printing v. Harvest Hill Press, 2002 ME 116, ¶ 5, 801 A.2d 1004. When a plaintiff appeals from a small-claims judgment, appellate review ...


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