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Rankin v. Shea

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

September 8, 2016

JOSEPH RANKIN, Plaintiff,
v.
DOUGLAS W. SHEA, D.S. FOUNDATIONS, INC., CHASE SHEA, and ADRIEN BERRY Defendants.

          Plaintiff-Jeffrey Langholtz, Esq.

          Shea Defendants-LJohn Topchik, Esq.

          Berry Defendant-Elizabeth Stouder, Esq.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION-FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Lance E. Walker, Justice

         This matter comes before the Court on a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants Douglas W. Shea, D.S. Foundations & Son, Inc., and Chase Shea. For the following reasons, the Shea Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted in toto.

         I. FACTS

         On April 15, 2011, Plaintiff Joseph Rankin was inspecting property in West Baldwin, Maine owned by Liudas Normanrus. (Pl's Compl. ¶ 6). Rankin had been authorized to be a caretaker of the property, the site of a former sawmill and waste disposal facility, by Normantus's son, Vitas Normanrus. (Id.) Rankin saw an unauthorized pickup truck on the property, (Id. at ¶ 7), and alleges that he believed it was being used to illegally remove fixtures and equipment from the property. Id.

         Rankin alleges that the truck had been driven onto Liudas Normantus's property by Defendant Chase Shea. (Id. at ¶ 10.) The truck was owned by D.S. Foundations & Son, Inc. (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 7.) Chase's friend, Josh Verrill, had accompanied him onto Liudas Normantus's property. (Pl's Response to Def.'s S.M.F. ¶ 4.)

         Rankin used a shotgun to shoot holes into the truck's radiator in an attempt to disable it. (Id. at ¶ 17-19). The Defendants Douglas W. Shea (father of Chase), Chase, and D.S. Foundations & Son, Inc. allege that Rankin also fired his shotgun towards Chase and Josh, (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 11), and held Josh at gunpoint on the ground, (Id. at ¶ 16). Rankin denies shooting towards Chase and Josh, (Pl's Response to Def.'s S.M.F. ¶ 12), or holding Josh on the ground at gunpoint, (Id. at ¶ 16).

         Chase made a phone call to his cousin, Adrien Berry, who was subsequently dropped off at Liudas Normantus's property by his grandmother. (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 18-19.) Adrien got into the driver's seat of the truck, Chase got into the passenger's seat, and Adrien drove the truck off the property. (Pl's Response to Def.'s S.M.F. ¶ 19.) Rankin alleges that as Adrien drove off the property, the truck struck a wood telephone pole that had been placed on the property to prevent unauthorized entry. (Pl's Compl. ¶ 11.) The pole allegedly "spun and slammed into" Rankin, injuring him. (Id. at ¶ 11.) Rankin admits that he did not believe that Adrien or Chase intended to hit him. (Pl's Response to Def.'s S.M.F. ¶ 25.) Rankin also alleges that his injuries resulting from the events on April 15, 2011 prevented him from providing care and comfort to his dying wife. (Pl's Compl. ¶ 14.)

         Rankin filed a complaint against Douglas W. Shea, D.S. Foundations & Son, Inc., Chase Shea, and Adrien Berry on February 20, 2015 in five counts: (I) negligence as to all the defendants related to the operation of the truck, (n) negligent entrustment of the truck to Chase by Douglas, (III) knowingly permitting Chase to operate the truck on a public way, (IV) failure of Douglas to exercise reasonable control over Chase, and (V) vicarious liability of Douglas and D.S. Foundations & Son, Inc., asserting that Chase was operating the truck within the scope of his employment for them and was acting as an agent for them at the time of Rankin's alleged injuries.

         Douglas and Chase argue they have no liability to Rankin, even though Douglas did give Chase permission to drive the truck on April 15, 2011, (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 7), because it was Adrien and not Chase or Douglas who was driving the truck when Rankin was injured, (D.'s Mot. Summ. J. 1), and because Douglas did not give Adrien permission to drive the truck, (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 20). Rankin alleges that Chase expressly gave Adrien permission to drive the truck, (Pl's Response to Def.'s S.M.F. ¶ 20, ) and that Chase retained control of the truck even though he was not driving, (Pl's Response to Def.'s. Mot. Summ. J. 8).

         The Defendants argue that neither Douglas, Chase, nor D.S. Foundations & Son, Inc., is vicariously liable for any injuries to Rankin because Adrien was not an employee or agent of any of them, (D.'s Mot. Summ. J. 2), that the truck was not on Liudas Normantus's property for any work-related activity, (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 8), and that D.S. Foundations & Son, Inc. was not in the business of scrapping, (Id.). Rankin argues that Chase was employed by Douglas and D.S. Foundations & Son, Inc. on April 15, 2011, working for Douglas on the days he did not attend school, (Pl's Response to Def.'s. S.M.F. ¶ 6), and that Chase gave Adrien permission to drive the truck, (Id. at ¶ 20). Rankin admits that on April 15, 2011 the truck was not on the Liudas Normantus property for any work-related activity for D.S. Foundations & Son, Inc. and that D.S. Foundations & Son, Inc. was not in the business of scrapping. (Id. at ¶ 8.)

         The Defendants argue that Plaintiff Rankin attempted to assert two additional claims in his response to their motion for summary judgment that he should not be allowed to raise during litigation: 1) that D.S. Foundations & Son, Inc., through its treasurer, negligently entrusted the truck to Adrien, and 2) that Chase is liable for Adrien's actions because Chase retained control of ...


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