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Craigue v. Price

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

February 14, 2017

ERIC CRAIGUE individually, as parent and next friend of Charlie Craigue, and as personal representative of the Estate of Destiny Victoria Daye Plaintiff
v.
DANIEL PRICE, LEWIS D. PRICE and DIANE L. PRICE Defendants

          ORDER ON RENEWED MOTION TO DISMISS

          A. M. Horton, Justice

         Pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), Defendants Daniel Price, Lewis D. Price and Diane L. Price have renewed their Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint of Plaintiff Eric Craigue, individually, as next friend of Charlie Craigue and as personal representative of the Estate of Destiny Victoria Daye. Plaintiff has filed a timely objection and Defendants have filed a reply.

         The pertinent allegations of the Amended Complaint are that Plaintiff is the widower of Destiny Victoria Daye; the father of their minor child, Charlie Daye, and the personal representative of her Estate. Plaintiff contends that Destiny Victoria Daye died May 4, 2016 of an overdose of fentanyl combined with alcohol at a home owned by Defendants Lewis and Diane Price, at which they and their son Daniel Price were residing, and where they permitted Destiny Victoria Daye to reside as well. The Complaint alleges that Destiny Victoria Daye and Daniel Price were in a romantic and "illegal drug-procurement relationship, " of which Defendants Lewis and Diane Price were aware.

         Paragraph 10 of the Amended Complaint alleges that Daniel Price "accompanied and assisted Destiny in the procurement of illegal drugs, and accompanied and assisted Destiny to, or failed to prevent Destiny from, her use of those drugs within the premises that led to her overnight death within those premises." The Amended Complaint alleges that Lewis and Diane Price were aware that their son and Destiny were using drugs within the home. It alleges that all three Defendants owed a duty to prevent harm to Destiny from her drug use.

         The standard of review applicable to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss calls for the court to determine whether the pleading to which the motion is directed, viewed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, states any cognizable claim for relief. See Town of Eddington v. University of Maine Foundation 2007 ME 74, ¶5, 926 A.2d 183, 184; Heber v. Lucerne-in-Me. Vill Corp., 2000 ME 137, ¶ 7, 755 A.2d 1064, 1066.

         Defendants' renewed Motion to Dismiss contends that the Complaint fails to state a legally cognizable claim against them for purposes of Rule 12(b)(6). Specifically, they contend that they cannot be held liable for Destiny's death, unless Plaintiff alleges and proves that there was a special relationship that imposed a duty upon them to protect her from harm, or unless Plaintiff alleges and proves that they created the risk of danger or harm that caused her death.

         In Maine, there is no common law tort liability for nonfeasance-failure to act-unless the defendant either created the risk that resulted in harm to the plaintiff, or the defendant had a duty to act arising out of a special relationship.

[T]n instances of nonfeasance rather than misfeasance, and absent a special relationship, the law imposes no duty to act affirmatively to protect someone from danger unless the dangerous situation was created by the defendant. Only when there is a "special relationship, " may the actor be found to have a common law duty to prevent harm to another, caused by a third party. There is simply no duty so to control the conduct of a third person as to prevent him from causing physical harm to another unless ... a special relation exists ....

Bryan R. v. Watchtower Bible & Tract Soc'y of N.Y., Inc., 1999 ME 144, P 14, 738 A.2d 839, 845 (footnote omitted). Accord, Jackson v. Tedd-Lait Post No. 75, 1999 ME 26, ¶8, 723 A.2d. 1220, 1221 ("absent a special relationship, the law imposes no duty to act affirmatively to protect someone from danger unless the dangerous situation was created by the defendant").

          The Amended Complaint does not allege that Lewis and Diane Price actually created the risk that caused harm to Destiny, i.e. administered or at least furnished the illegal drugs that allegedly caused her death. However, paragraph 10, read in alight most favorable to the Plaintiff as it must be, does allege that Daniel Price was involved in obtaining drugs for Destiny and "accompanied and assisted" her in using the drugs. The court has no difficulty with the proposition that someone who furnishes, or clearer still, administers an intoxicant to another under life-threatening circumstances can be deemed to have created the risk of harm.

         In the court's view, the allegations that Lewis and Diane Price knew that their son and Destiny were using drugs in the home, procured for them by him, does not create a "special relationship" for purposes of imposing a duty to act where none would otherwise exist. This is not to defend inaction by a parent and homeowner who knows of and tolerates illegal drug use in the home, but has not furnished the drugs. It means only that the common law does not impose civil liability in such an instance.

         Accordingly, even viewed in a light most favorable to the Plaintiff, the Amended Complaint tails to state a legally cognizable claim or cause of action as to Lewis and Diane Price but does sufficiently allege facts sufficient to create a duty on the part of Daniel Price .

         IT IS HEREBY ORDERED AS FOLLOWS;

         1. Defendant's renewed Motion to Dismiss is hereby granted as to Defendants Diane and Lewis Price and is denied as to Defendant Daniel Price. Lewis and Diane Price are hereby dismissed as Defendants, Pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 79(a), the ...


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