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Brown v. Amica Insurance Co.

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

November 6, 2015

CRAIG BROWN, Plaintiff
AMICA INSURANCE CO., et al, Defendants




Thomas D. Warren Justice, Superior Court

Before the court is a motion to dismiss on behalf of defendant Amica Insurance Co.

Amica's motion was dated July 2, 2015 and filed on July 13, 2015. The motion is addressed to the amended complaint filed by plaintiff Craig Brown on May 26, 2015 after this court granted Amica's motion to strike the original complaint with leave to replead within 20 days. See order dated May 4, 2015.

For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the material allegations of the complaint must be taken as admitted. The complaint must be read in the light most favorable to the plaintiff to determine if it sets forth elements of a cause of action or alleges facts that would entitle plaintiff to relief pursuant to some legal theory. A claim shall only be dismissed when it appears beyond doubt that a plaintiff is not entitled to relief under any set of facts that he might prove in support of his claim. In re Wage Payment Litigation, 2000 ME 162 3, 759 A.2d 217.

In this case the task of discerning whether Brown has stated a cognizable claim against Amica is made difficult by Brown's penchant for prolix filings reiterating or attaching copies of pleadings in the many other cases which he has brought, all of which - as far as the court can tell - have been unsuccessful and which have resulted in an order enjoining Brown from filing any other federal court actions without obtaining prior court permission in order "to prevent Brown from continuing to abuse the judicial process, from wasting judicial resources, and from wasting the resources of parties who must respond to his frivolous lawsuits." Brown v. State of Maine, 11-CV-426 JD, 2012 WL 5463087 (D. Me. Nov. 7, 2012).

Just because Brown appears to be fixated on pursuing various meritless claims, however, does not resolve the question of whether his amended complaint against Amica fails to state any claim upon which relief may be granted.

In considering Amica's motion to dismiss, the court has the benefit of Brown's homeowner's policy, which is contained in the record and also has the benefit of several of the pleadings in the cases upon which Brown bases his claim that Amica violated its duty to defend.[1] The court can consider those documents in connection with the motion to dismiss because they are central to plaintiffs claim. See Moody v. State Liquor and Lottery Commission, 2004 ME 20 ¶¶ 9-10, 843 A.2d 43.

At the outset the court finds nothing in applicable law or in Brown's homeowners policy that would entitle him to bring a claim based on an alleged violation of Amica's duty to defend in connection with criminal charges brought against Brown, in connection with a protection order obtained against Brown, or in connection with litigation that was initiated by Brown himself. This requires dismissal of the majority of the claims asserted in Brown's May 26, 2015 amended complaint against Amica. Similarly, Amica's duty to defend does not extend to somehow preventing Brown from engaging in "self help" or in defending Brown from alleged or imagined violations of Brown's rights when no lawsuits had been filed. See May 26, 2015 amended complaint ¶¶ 3-5.

However, there is one case in which - on the face of the pleadings - a colorable case can be made that Amica had a duty to defend. This was the case brought against Brown for trespass, to determine a boundary line, and for punitive damages in Knox County Superior Court. Ferrara v. Brown, Docket No. RE-09-10 (filed May 13, 2009). As far as the court can tell, that case appears to have resulted in a judgment for plaintiff against Brown, who was representing himself, [2] for trespass under 14 M.R.S. § 7551-B based on Brown's destruction of a fence. An award of actual damages and attorneys fees was entered against Brown. See Exhibit 13 to Brown's Opposition to Amica's motion to dismiss.

As far as the court can tell from a review of the homeowners' policy, Amica had agreed to defend Brown from claims alleging property damage as a result of an occurrence as defined under the policy. Moreover, although the complaint in RE-09-10 alleged that Brown "knowingly" committed a trespass, recovery under 14 M.R.S. § 7551-B would not necessarily have been excluded from coverage under Amica's policy because actual damages may be awarded under § 7551-B even if it is not proven that the defendant knew that he was on another's land. That in fact appears to have been the outcome in Knox RE-09-10. See November 9, 2010 Decision in RE-09-10 (annexed as Exhibit 13 to Brown's response to Amica's motion to dismiss) at p. 4. See also Liability Coverage Exclusion E at page 18 of the policy (exclusion for "expected or intended injury" does not apply to "property damage resulting from the use of reasonable force by an insured to protect. . . property").

An insurer's duty to defend is determined by comparing the allegations in the complaint with the insurance contract. See, e.g., Mitchell v. Allstate Insurance Co., 2011 ME 133 ¶¶ 9-10, 36 A.3d 876. Comparing the complaint in Knox RE-09-10 with the Amica policy, Brown's amended complaint appears to state a claim against Amica.

At the same time, the court notes that other documents submitted by Brown appear to suggest that Amica has in fact paid for Brown's legal costs in RE-09-10 and the amount of the judgment against him. See Exhibit 10 to Brown's June 23, 2015 motion for summary judgment. Thus, if Amica had a duty to defend Brown, there is evidence in the record that it may not have violated that duty, particularly given what appears to be a factual dispute as to whether Brown properly notified Amica of the lawsuit. See May 26, 2015 Amended Complaint ΒΆ 7; Exhibit 10 to Brown's June 23, 2015 summary ...

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