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Estate of Gagnon v. Anthony

Supreme Court of Maine

November 10, 2015

ESTATE OF PAUL J. GAGNON et al.,
v.
KEITH ANTHONY

Argued: October 8, 2015.

York County Superior Court docket number CV-2013-192.

On the briefs and at oral argument:

Arthur H. Dumas, Esq., Arthur H. Dumas, PA, Sanford, for appellants Estate of Paul J. Gagnon et al.

Kenneth D. Pierce, Esq., Monaghan Leahy, LLP, Portland for appellee Keith Anthony.

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

HUMPHREY, J.

[¶1] The Estate of Paul J. Gagnon[1] appeals from a judgment of the Superior Court (York County, Fritzsche, J.) entered upon a jury's verdict in favor of Keith Anthony on the Estate's negligence claim. The Estate argues that (1) there was insufficient evidence to support the jury's finding that Gagnon was at least as negligent as Anthony and (2) the court erred by denying the Estate's motion for a new trial. We affirm the judgment and the denial of the motion for a new trial.

I. BACKGROUND

[¶2] On May 2, 2011, around 2:30 in the afternoon, Keith Anthony asked his neighbor, Paul Gagnon, to help fell a rotted tree at Anthony's residence in Shapleigh. Both men were experienced woodcutters. The tree to be felled was approximately thirty inches in diameter with a large limb growing out of it. Gagnon used a chainsaw to make a wedge cut in the tree below the limb while Anthony used the bucket of his Bobcat skid-steer loader to push the limb away from the house and a nearby sapling.

[¶3] As they performed their respective tasks, the tree "exploded" and the limb fell on Gagnon, knocking him unconscious, pinning him to the ground, and causing him to sustain several injuries.[2] Two years later, Gagnon filed a complaint against Anthony alleging that Anthony failed to warn him about the possibility that the limb could snap because of the rotted condition of the tree, and also alleging that Anthony was negligent in his operation of the Bobcat. In his answer to the complaint, Anthony raised an affirmative defense of comparative negligence. See 14 M.R.S. § 156 (2014).

[¶4] Following a two-day trial in January 2015, the jury found that both Anthony and Gagnon were negligent and that Gagnon was at least as negligent as Anthony in causing his own injuries. The Estate's motion for a new trial was denied, and this appeal followed.

II. DISCUSSION

[ΒΆ5] The Estate's challenges to the jury's finding of comparative negligence and the court's denial of the motion for a new trial are both based upon the sufficiency of the evidence in the record. Accordingly, we consider them together. ...


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