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Osprey Landing LLC v. First American Title Insurance Co.

Supreme Court of Maine

March 9, 2017

OSPREY LANDING, LLC
v.
FIRST AMERICAN TITLE INSURANCE COMPANY

          Argued: February 7, 2017

          Jeffrey T. Edwards, Esq. (orally), Preti Flaherty Beliveau & Pachios, LLP, Portland, for appellant Osprey Landing, LLC.

          Paul F. Driscoll, Esq., and James D. Poliquin, Esq. (orally), Norman, Hanson & DeTroy, LLC, Portland, for appellee First American Title Insurance Company.

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, TABAR, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          JABAR, J.

         [¶1] Osprey Landing, LLC (Osprey) appeals from a judgment of the Superior Court (Lincoln County, Billings, J.) granting First American Title Insurance Company's (First American) motion for summary judgment and denying Osprey's cross-motion for summary judgment on Osprey's complaint related to a title insurance policy issued by First American. Osprey contends that policy coverage was triggered when a deposition and affidavits provided in litigation involving Osprey and a different party in 2012 and 2013 contained facts that Osprey alleges could constitute a potential claim for a public prescriptive easement over property covered by the policy. We disagree and affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] Osprey acquired a parcel of oceanfront property in Southport, Maine (the property) from Osprey Perch, LLC, a company owned and managed by Byron Miller, and purchased a title insurance policy (the policy) from First American. After transfer of the parcel, Osprey sued Thomas and Janet Blevins, owners of a lot abutting the property, claiming that a deeded easement over the Blevinses' lot permitted passage of motor vehicles. The Blevinses counterclaimed, asserting the existence of a private prescriptive easement over the Osprey property. Osprey requested that First American defend it against the Blevinses' counterclaim, and First American declined to do so. Osprey then sought a declaratory judgment that First American had a duty to defend Osprey in the litigation, which the trial court granted on June 26, 2013.

         [¶3] In conjunction with the Blevins litigation, Miller executed an affidavit in which he expressed his knowledge of a history of public use of a path over the property.[1] In October of 2012, however, the Blevinses stipulated to a dismissal with prejudice of their prescriptive easement counterclaim. Miller was later deposed in the ongoing discovery for Osprey's suit, and reiterated his knowledge of a history of public use of a path over the property.

         [¶4] Following the Miller deposition, Osprey sent another request to First American invoking title insurance coverage, independently of the Blevins litigation, to "put First American on notice of Miller's affidavit and deposition, asking First American to take "appropriate action ... to defend, vindicate and safeguard Osprey's title." First American again declined, and procured a second affidavit from Miller, in which Miller stated that he asserted no claim to a prescriptive easement over the property, and knew of no one who could do so. Osprey filed suit to enforce First American's purported duty to defend and indemnify Osprey.

         [¶5] First American moved for summary judgment as to all counts and Osprey filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. On May 31, 2016, the Superior Court (Lincoln County, Billings, /.) granted First American's motion, and denied Osprey's cross-motion. Osprey timely appeals. See M.R. App. P. 2(b)(3).

         II. DISCUSSION

         [¶6] Osprey contends on appeal that the court erred in granting First American's motion for summary judgment and denying Osprey's cross-motion for summary judgment. Although Osprey parses its arguments into three separate issues, each is an iteration of a single issue: Osprey believes that Miller's deposition and affidavits create the risk of a future public prescriptive easement claim adverse to Osprey's title, and therefore, according to Osprey, the policy requires First American to take some action to either perfect Osprey's title or compensate Osprey for this perceived title defect. We disagree with Osprey that Miller's statements have created a "triggering event" requiring First American to take any action, and therefore affirm the court's judgment.

         [¶7] Cross-motions for summary judgment do not "alter the basic Rule 56 standard." F.R. Carroll, Inc. v. TD Bank, N.A.,2010 ME 115, ¶ 8, 8A.3d646. We review de novo the grant or denial of cross-motions for summary judgment, "and consider both the evidence and any reasonable inferences that the evidence produces in the light most favorable to the party against whom the summary judgment has been granted in order to determine if there is a genuine issue of material fact." Grant v. Foster Wheeler, LLC,2016 ME 85, ¶12, 140 A.3d 1242 (quotation marks omitted). Summary judgment is properly granted when there is no genuine issue of ...


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