ERIK WEST, KATHLEEN WEST, JOHN PRIDE, and JOANN PRIDE, Plaintiffs,
JEWETT & NOONAN TRANSPORTATION, INC., Defendant.
ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY
Horton, Justice, Superior Court
Jewett & Noonan Transportation, Inc. has moved for
partial summary judgment on Plaintiffs Erik West, Kathleen
West, John Pride, and Joann Pride's claims for statutory
trespass and punitive damages.
argument was held today, with attorneys McCarthy and Bell
participating. The oral argument was recorded. Based on the
entire record, Defendant's motion for partial summary
judgment is granted as to the statutory trespass claim in
Count II of the Complaint, and denied without prejudice as to
the Plaintiffs' claim for punitive damages.
following facts are not in dispute. On June 11, 2014, a
transport tanker truck owned and operated by Defendant rolled
over in a traffic circle connecting Routes 112 and 114 in
Gorham, Maine. (Def Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 1; Pis. Opp. S.M.F.
¶ l.) As a result, nearly 9, 000 gallons of petroleum
products were released. (Pis. Add'l S.M.F. ¶ 6; Def.
Reply S.M.F. ¶ 6.) Some of the petroleum product
migrated onto property owned by Plaintiffs. (Def. Supp.
S.M.F. ¶ 2; Pis. Opp. S.M.F. ¶ 2.) Though Defendant
took immediate steps to remediate the spill on
Plaintiffs' property, soil testing showed the presence of
oil above the Maine Department of Environmental
Protection's ("DEP") safety standards. (Pis.
Add'l S.M.F. ¶¶ 8-9; Def. Reply S.M.F.
¶¶ 8-9.) In January 2015, Defendant submitted a
proposed remedial action plan to DEP outlining a number of
remediation options. (Id. ¶ 10.) DEP requested
that Defendant remove all contaminated soil from
Plaintiffs' property. (Def. Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 3; Pis.
Opp. S.M.F. ¶ 3.) DEP set a deadline of July 1, 2015,
for Defendant to complete the removal of all. contaminated
soil. (Id.) However, removal of the contaminated
soil never occurred. Defendant asserts that Plaintiffs never
provided it with authorization to access their property to
conduct the excavation. Plaintiffs assert that Defendant
never provided them with information regarding the work to be
done on their property. DEP subsequently determined that no
further remediation or excavation was required. (Def. Supp.
S.M.F. ¶ 14; Pis. Opp. S.M.F. ¶ 14.)
December 7, 2015, Plaintiffs filed a complaint against
Defendant asserting claims for common law trespass, statutory
trespass, negligence, nuisance, and strict liability. (Compl.
¶¶ 28-50.) Plaintiffs' complaint sought
compensatory damages, double damages, punitive damages,
injunctive relief, as well as attorney's fees and costs.
(Compl. 8.) On March 26, 2016, Defendant filed this motion of
partial summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claim for
statutory trespass and their demand for punitive
damages. (Def. Mot. Summ. J. 4.) Plaintiffs filed
their opposition on April 13, 2016. Defendant filed its reply
on April 25, 2016. Resolution of the motion was delayed for
several months due to difficulty in scheduling oral argument.
Standard of Review
judgment is appropriate if, based on the parties'
statements of material fact and the cited record, there is no
genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. M.R. Civ. P. 56(c);
Dyer v. Dep't of Transp., 2008 ME 106, ¶
14, 951 A.2d 821. "A material fact is one that can
affect the outcome of the case. A genuine issue of material
fact exists when the [Tact finder must choose between
competing versions of the truth." Dyer, 2008 ME
106, ¶ 14, 951 A.2d 821 (internal citation and quotation
marks omitted). When deciding a motion for summary judgment,
the court reviews the evidence in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party. Id.
moving party's motion for summary judgment is properly
supported, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to
respond with specific facts indicating a genuine issue for
trial in order to avoid summary judgment. M.R. Civ. P.
56(e). "To withstand a motion for summary
judgment, the plaintiff must establish a prima facie case for
each element of their cause of action." Watt v.
UniFirst Corp., 2009 ME 47, ¶ 21, 969 A.2d 897
(internal citation and quotation marks omitted). If a
plaintiff fails to present sufficient evidence on the
essential elements, then the defendant is entitled to a
summary judgment. Id.
interpretation is a question of law for the court to decide.
Liberty Ins. Underwriters, Inc. v. Estate of
Faulkner, 2008 ME 149, ¶ 15, 957 A.2d 94. When
interpreting a statute, the court's goal is to effectuate
the Legislature's intent. Dickau v. Vt. Mut. Ins.
Co., 2014 ME 158, ¶ 19, 107 A.3d 621. In order to
effectuate the Legislature's intent, the court must first
determine whether the statutory language is plain and
unambiguous. Dickau v. Vt. Mut. Ins. Co., 2014 ME
158, ¶ 19, 107 A.3d 621. In determining the plain
meaning of statutory language, court must take into account
the subject matter and purposes of the statute. Id.
¶ 21. The court must also take into account the design,
structure, and overall purpose of the language used.
Id. ¶ 22. "In the absence of legislative
definitions, we afford terms their plain, common, and
ordinary meaning." Id. If the statute is
unambiguous the court looks no further; the court examines
other indicia of legislative intent only when the plain
language of the statute is ambiguous. Jordan v. Sears,
Roebuck & Co., 651 A.2d 358, 360 (Me. 1994).
II of Plaintiffs' complaint is a claim for statutory
trespass pursuant to 14 M.R.S. § 7551-B. (Compl.
¶¶ 32-36.) Section 7551-B provides:
1. Prohibition "A person who intentionally enters
the land of another without permission" and causes
damage to property is liable to the owner in a civil ...