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Carignan v. Dumas

Supreme Court of Maine

January 19, 2017


          Argued: November 9, 2016

          James B. Haddow, Esq. (orally), Petruccelli, Martin & Haddow, LLP, Portland, for appellant Paul R. Dumas, Jr.

          Stephean C. Chute, Esq. (orally), South Casco, and Thomas S. Carey, Esq., Carey & Associates, P.A., Rumford, for appellee Gloria Carignan


          JABAR, J.

         [¶l] Paul R. Dumas Jr. appeals from a judgment of the Superior Court (Oxford County, Clifford, J.) granting summary judgment in favor of Gloria Carignan and denying Dumas's motion for summary judgment. Dumas contends that the court erred by interpreting a provision of the Paper Streets Act, 23 M.R.S. § 3031 (2016), to apply retrospectively. We agree, and therefore vacate the court's entry of summary judgment for Carignan and its denial of summary judgment for Dumas, and remand for further proceedings.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The summary judgment record contains the following facts. Brady v. Cumberland Cty., 2015 ME 143, ¶ 2, 126 A.3d 1145. Gloria Carignan owns unencumbered title to real estate located at 3 Holyoke Avenue in Rumford, Maine (the "Carignan Parcel"). Her property is described in a deed from John F. Hargreaves to Gloria F. Hargreaves dated September 15, 2010, and recorded in the Oxford County Registry of Deeds. The Carignan Parcel is further described in a deed to John F Hargreaves and Gloria F. Hargreaves by Robert F. Perry and Rita N. Perry dated January 26, 1979, also recorded in the Oxford County Registry of Deeds. The Carignan Parcel was originally granted to the Perrys by deed of Rumford Falls Power Company (RFPC) recorded on February 23, 1973. It is delineated as lots 2153 through 2159 on RFPC's subdivision plan titled Ninth Addition and Revision of Part First Addition Rumford (the "Ninth Addition Plan"), dated July 8, 1920, and recorded on August 4, 1920.

         [¶3] Paul R. Dumas Jr. owns property described in two separate deeds: one (the "Casco Bank Parcel") dated January 22, 1976, and recorded in the Oxford County Registry of Deeds; and another (the "Rumford Paper Company Parcel") dated July 18, 2014, also recorded in Oxford County. The Rumford Paper Company Parcel is delineated on the Ninth Addition Plan, and is contiguous to the Casco Bank Parcel, which is delineated on a subdivision plan titled Fourth Addition to Rumford Falls, dated August 10, 1906, and recorded September 19, 1906. Together, Dumas's property (collectively the "Dumas Parcel") includes plots 2160 through 2176 and the southern portion of 2177 as shown on the Ninth Addition Plan.

         (Image Omitted)

         [¶4] The Carignan Parcel is bordered on the west by Willow Street, a paper street depicted on the Ninth Addition Plan. Dumas's lots 2172 through 2177 are bordered by Willow Street on the east, and his lots 2160 through 2164 are bordered by Willow Street on the west. A portion of Willow Street runs directly between part of the Carignan Parcel and part of the Dumas Parcel. Two other paper streets, Vine Street and Salem Street, abut the Dumas Parcel but are not at issue here.

         [¶5] Willow Street was never formally accepted by the Town of Rumford, and neither party alleges any private or public use of the road until the 1970s, when Dumas asserts that a portion of Willow Street was maintained for logging purposes.[1]

         [¶6] Rumford Paper Company is the successor-in-interest to RFPC. In conveying the Carignan Parcel to the Perrys in 1973, RFPC expressly reserved

[f]orever, to and for itself, its successors and assigns . . . rights to authorize and consent to the authorization, construction, and maintenance through any and all the streets, avenues, parks, reserved and other open places shown on the [Ninth Addition Plan], of surface railways to be propelled by horses, electricity or steam; or other power, or sewers, water pipes, gas pipes, electric wires, both overhead and underground, and all other matters and things for which streets are customarily used

         When Rumford Paper Company conveyed the Rumford Paper Company Parcel to Dumas, it expressly included in its conveyance "all of the fee interest, and any other interest or rights of the Grantor previously reserved or otherwise held by Rumford Falls Power Company in Willow Street... as shown upon [the Ninth Addition Plan]."

         [¶7] On May 15, 1997, the Town voted pursuant to 23 M.R.S.A. § 3032 (1997) to exempt from the time limitations of the Paper Streets Act certain paper streets in Rumford, but did not include Willow Street. Less than twenty years before this action was brought, Carignan constructed a garage that encroaches upon a section of Willow Street adjacent to the Carignan Parcel. She has never recorded in the Oxford County Registry of Deeds, and never given to any record owner, any notice of claim to Willow Street.

         [¶8] On November 8, 2013, Carignan filed a complaint against Dumas and Robert Richard, an alleged contractor for Dumas, asserting six causes of action related to Richard's use of Willow Street to access the Dumas Parcel. In response, Dumas asserted affirmative defenses and counterclaimed, pursuant to the Paper Streets Act, P.L. 1987, ch. 385 (effective September 29, 1987) (codified at 23 M.R.S. §§ 3027, 3031-3035 (2016); 33 M.R.S. §§ 460, 469-A (2016)) seeking a declaratory judgment that Carignan has no legal rights to any portion of Willow Street, that Dumas has an easement to use Willow Street to access his property, and that a public easement exists over Willow Street.

         [¶9] Carignan stipulated to a partial dismissal of her claim, and amended her complaint to seek declaratory judgment, naming Dumas, RFPC, and New Page Corporation as defendants. RFPC and New Page Corporation were later dismissed from the action, leaving only Carignan and Dumas as parties. In January 2015, Carignan and Dumas filed cross-motions for summary judgment as to Carignan's claim and Dumas's counterclaim for declaratory judgment.

         [¶10] On May 4, 2015, following a hearing on the cross-motions, the Superior Court (Oxford County, Clifford, J.) entered an order granting summary judgment for Carignan and denying summary judgment for Dumas. The court concluded that pursuant to 33 M.R.S. § 469-A (2016), addressing reservation of title to proposed, unaccepted ways, Carignan, through her predecessors-in-title, acquired title to the centerline of that portion of Willow Street abutting her property. Next, addressing the issue of public and private easements in Willow Street, the court relied upon our holding in Tisdale v. Buch,2013 ME 95, 81 A.3d 377, to conclude that 23 M.R.S. ยงยง 3031(1) and (2) (2016), which address public and private rights in proposed, unaccepted ways recorded in subdivision plans, apply to subdivision plans recorded before September 29, 1987. The court found that because the Town never accepted Willow Street, any public or private rights to its use expired no later than 1940 pursuant to those provisions. Additionally, the court concluded that Carignan was not required to file notice of her rights to Willow Street pursuant to 23 M.R.S. ...

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