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Haskell v. York

Superior Court of Maine, Waldo

October 28, 2016

DAWN H. HASKELL, MARTIN W. WITHAM, Plaintiffs,
v.
DONALD R. YORK, JR., DONALD R, YORK, SR.5 BRENDA YORK, TORIE M. YORK, DESIREE JEAN YORK, and GROVER BRAGG, JR., Defendants.

          DECISION AND JUDGMENT

          Hon. Robert Murray Justice.

         Plaintiffs, Dawn H. Haskell and Martin W. Witham, filed their Complaint with the Court on March 10, 2014. On June 17, 2014, Plaintiffs' request for a default was entered against Defendant, Grover Bragg. Prior to trial the plaintiff dismissed the claims asserted against defendants Donald York Sr, Desiree Jean York, Brenda York and Torie York.

         On June 17, 2016, this Court held a hearing on damages, where Plaintiffs sought: compensatory damages from both Defendants, Mr. Bragg and Mr. York, Jr., for Plaintiffs' property damage and medical bills; damages from both Mr. Bragg and Mr. York, Jr. for Plaintiffs' pain and suffering; punitive damages from only Mr. York, Jr. for his outrageous conduct; and prejudgment and postjudgment interest. Defendant, Donald York, Jr. was present at the hearing, but presented no evidence on his behalf. Defendant, Grover Bragg, contends that, despite the default entered against him, he was entitled to present evidence and argue at the damages hearing issues relating to (1) causation and (2) the plaintiffs' comparative negligence. Defendant Bragg also argues that the amount of any prejudgmenl interest that Plaintiffs may be entitled to should be reduced. The Court discusses Mr. Bragg's claims below.

         BACKGROUND

         In the early morning of March 27, 2013, Plaintiffs were suddenly awakened by the sound of their windows breaking and someone yelling "get out of bed!" Donald York, Jr. was under the influence of some combination of intoxicants. He thought that his dead friend, Jared, was in Plaintiffs' home, and he was trying to get inside. Ms. Haskell called the police, while her boyfriend, Mr. Witham, went outside to see what was going on. By then, Mr. York had returned to his vehicle, which was driven by Mr. Bragg. Mr. Witham stood in front of the vehicle and refused to let them leave until the police arrived.

         A short time later, Mr. York ran from the vehicle and jumped through the kitchen window of Plaintiffs' home. Mr. York then began to destroy Plaintiffs' furniture, television, walls, and other items in their home. Ms. Haskell, who was in the home at the time and on the phone with the police, ran and hid inside her garage.

         Mr. Witham lured Mr. York outside of the home and away from Ms. Haskell, but was severely beaten by Mr. York and left incapacitated, bleeding, and in the snow. Mr. York then went back inside the home, and Ms. Haskell fled outside and attempted to aid Mr. Witham. Soon thereafter, Mr. York's family arrived and coaxed him out of the house and into their car.

         Earlier that evening, Mr. York became intoxicated while in the home of Mr. Bragg. Mr. York woke Mr. Bragg up around 2:30 a.m., and claimed lo have seen his dead friend Jared, who Mr. Bragg knew was dead. Mr. Bragg was worried that Mr. York was a danger to himself, to the people in his home, and to his personal property. Rather than calling the authorities for assistance, Mr. Bragg decided to drive Mr. York somewhere away from his own home. While they were driving, Mr. York told him to go down what was Plaintiffs' road, because he had seen Jared there. Mr. Bragg complied and Mr. York then got out of the car, started yelling, and began breaking Plaintiffs' windows.

         As a result of the defendants' conduct, the plaintiffs suffered extensive property damage, physical and emotional injuries, and considerable pain and suffering. Specifically, the evidence indicates the property damage described above totaled $9, 093.50. Medical expenses incurred as a result of the injuries suffered on March 27, 2013 totaled $18, 978.14. Each of the plaintiffs directly experienced significant trauma stemming from the events of March 27, 2013 which were caused by the defendants. The conduct by Defendant York, Jr., in particular, was so extreme and outrageous, this Court finds that punitive damages against him are warranted.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Carnation

         1. Mr. Bragg is Not Entitled to Litigate Causation

         M.R. Civ. P. 55(b)(2) provides in relevant part: "If, in order to enable the court to enter judgment or to carry it into effect, it is necessary. . . to determine the amount of damages, the court may conduct such hearings. . . as it deems necessary." When a default is entered against a defendant, the allegations in the plaintiffs complaint are deemed to be true and are treated as findings of fact. McAlister v. Slosberg, 658 A.2d 658, 660 (Me. 1995).

         Here, Plaintiffs' Complaint stated, "Each of the Defendants was aware of and assisted Defendant York, Jr. in reaching that level of intoxication, and permitted and/or assisted his transportation to the Plaintiffs' home, despite their awareness of the danger he presented to Plaintiffs and others in his state of intoxication." (Pls.' Comp. ¶ 22.) The Complaint further states, "Each of the Defendants, by and through their actions, was negligent and through their negligence caused Plaintiff to suffer and continue to suffer pain, medical ...


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