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Wallace v. Twin Pines Construction, Inc.

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

August 8, 2016

MATTHEW J. WALLACE, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
TWIN PINES CONSTRUCTION, INC., et al., Defendants

          MICHAEL VAILLANCOURT ESQ AINSWORTH THELIN & RAFTICE

          ORDER ON PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND STATE FARM AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Nancy Mills, Superior Court Justice.

         Before the court are (1) defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company's motion for summary judgment and (2) plaintiffs Matthew Wallace and Freja Folce's motion for partial summary judgment. For the following reasons, defendant State Farm's motion is granted and plaintiffs' motion is denied.

         FACTS

         The parties have stipulated to the following facts for purposes of summary judgment. On September 29, 2011, plaintiff Wallace was operating a vehicle on Route 26 in Woodstock, Maine. (Stipulated S.M.F. ¶ 1.) Plaintiff Folce and her minor daughter, Zoe Folce, were passengers. (Id.) Defendant Corey Hill was operating a vehicle in the opposite direction on Route 26 when he lost control of the vehicle, crossed the centerline of the road, and collided with the vehicle operated by plaintiff Wallace. (Id. ¶ 2.) The collision was caused by the negligence of defendant Hill. (Id. ¶ 3.)

         The vehicle operated by defendant Hill was owned by his employer, defendant Twin Pines Construction, Inc. (Id. ¶¶ 4-5.) Defendant Hill was operating the vehicle in the scope of his employment. (Id. ¶ 4.) The vehicle was insured under a policy issued by Safety Insurance Company, which provided liability coverage in the amount of $50, 000.00 per person and $100, 000.00 per accident by operation of Maine's financial responsibility law. (Id. ¶ 5); see 29-A M.R.S. § 1605(1)(C) (2015).

         Defendant Twin Pines was also insured under an excess policy issued by Alterra Insurance, which provided excess liability coverage in the amount of $2, 000, 000.00. (Id. ¶ 6.) The Alterra policy required defendant Twin Pines to maintain underlying liability coverage in the amount of $1, 000, 000.00[1], and further provided:

Failure of the insured to comply with the foregoing [underlying insurance requirement] shall not invalidate this Policy, but in the event of such failure, the Company shall be liable only to the extent that it would have been held liable had the insured complied therewith.

(Id. ¶ 7.) The Safety policy and the Alterra policy were the only policies that provided auto liability insurance to defendant Twin Pines at the time of the accident. (Id. ¶ 9.)

         The vehicle operated by plaintiff Wallace was insured under a policy issued by defendant State Farm, which provided uninsured motorist/underinsured (UM) coverage in the amount of $100, 000.00 per person and $300, 000.00 per accident. (Id ¶ 10.) In addition, plaintiff Wallace was insured under a separate policy issued by defendant State Farm on another vehicle, which also provided UM coverage in the amount of $100, 000.00 per person and $300, 000.00 per accident. (Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiffs' aggregate damages as a result of the accident exceed $100, 000.00. (Id. ¶ 14.)

         On August 22, 2013, plaintiff Wallace filed a complaint against defendants Hill, Twin Pines, Juliano Fernandes (owner of defendant Twin Pines), Teles Construction, Inc. (a separate company owned by defendant Fernandes), and State Farm. In the complaint, plaintiff Wallace alleged five causes of action: count I, negligence against defendant Hill; count II, vicarious liability against defendants Twin Pines, Fernandes, and Teles Construction; count III, negligence against defendants Twin Pines, Fernandes, and Teles Construction; count IV, abuse of the corporate form against defendants Twin Pines, Fernandes, and Teles Construction; and count V, UM claims against defendant State Farm. On December 13, 2013, plaintiff Folce filed a separate complaint, individually and on behalf of her minor daughter and alleged the same causes of action. (CV-13-532). The court consolidated the two cases on February 28, 2014.

         Plaintiffs have since entered into a settlement with defendant Twin Pines under which Alterra paid $1, 000, 000.00 to plaintiff Wallace and $1, 000, 000.00 to plaintiff Folce. (Stipulated S.M.F. ¶ 12.) In addition, Safety paid $50, 000.00 to plaintiff Folce and $50, 000.00 for the benefit of Zoe Folce. (Id.)

         On March 3, 2016, plaintiff Wallace moved to dismiss all defendants other than defendant State Farm. On March 4, 2016, plaintiff Folce filed a motion to approve the settlement, which the court granted on March 10, 2016. M.R. Civ. P. 17A(a). On March 14, 2016, the court dismissed all defendants other than defendant State Farm.

         Defendant State Farm filed a motion for summary judgment on May 16, 2016. Plaintiffs filed a motion for partial summary judgment on May 16, 2016 and opposed defendant State Farm's motion on June 3, 2016. Defendant State Farm opposed plaintiffs' ...


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