Submitted On Briefs: April 27, 2017
D. Farr, Esq., Gilbert & Greif, P.A., Bangor, for
appellant Teresa Sands
Brown, Esq., Don Brown Law, Brewer, for appellee Donald
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
Teresa Sands appeals from a post-judgment order entered in
the Superior Court (Penobscot County, Mallonee, J.),
pursuant to 14 M.R.S. §6014(2)(B) (2016), awarding her
attorney fees of $8, 000-an amount significantly less than
the nearly $60, 000 she requested-after a jury found Donald
E. Thomas liable for illegal eviction and wrongful use of
We review an award of attorney fees pursuant to section
6014(2)(B) "for abuse of discretion and accord the trial
court substantial deference, " Mancini v.
Scott, 2000 ME 19, ¶¶ 4, 10, 744 A.2d 1057
(quotation marks omitted), recognizing that the "court
is in the best position to observe the unique nature and
tenor of the litigation as it relates to a request for
attorney fees, " Kezer v. Cent. Me. Med. Ctr.,
2012 ME 54, ¶ 28, 40 A.3d 955 (quotation marks omitted).
In awarding fees of $8, 000, the court explained that
Sands's claim for illegal eviction was
"uncomplicated" and based on "straightforward
and almost completely undisputed" facts; and that
"the litigatory effort in the case was increased by
several orders of magnitude" because of "[t]he
addition of claims for intentional and negligent infliction
of emotional distress and the request for an award of
punitive damages, " which "greatly expanded the
volume and complexity of the body of relevant facts [, ] . .
. increased the likelihood of trial[, ] and lengthened the
trial itself." Because Sands did not include a
transcript of the trial proceedings as part of the record on
appeal, we assume that the record supports those findings.
See Rothstein v. Moloney, 2002 ME 179, ¶ 11,
816 A.2d 812.
Additionally, Sands argues that the court did not adequately
explain the award of $8, 000, as opposed to some other
amount. Although Sands filed a motion for additional findings
of fact, she did not propose findings about the specific
number of hours that an attorney would reasonably work on the
case and on the illegal eviction claim in particular.
See M.R. Civ. P. 52(b) & Advisory
Committee's Note to 2015 amend. ("[I]t is the
litigant's responsibility to include with the [Rule
52(b)] motion suggested findings that are both specific and
supported by the record."); Eremita v.
Marchiori, 2016 ME 160, ¶ 3, 150 A.3d 336. We
therefore infer that the court properly made the factual
findings needed to support its ultimate determination that an
$8, 000 fee award was "reasonable." See 14
M.R.S. § 6014(2)(B); Sullivan v. Tardiff, 2015
ME 121, ¶ 15, 124 A.3d 652.
Of the five substantive claims, accompanied by a request for
punitive damages, that Sands raised in her complaint, she
prevailed on only two, and of those, as the court correctly
observed, only the claim for illegal eviction could support
an award of attorney fees. Although Sands argues that her
non-fee claims arose from the illegal eviction and that she
was therefore entitled to an award that reflected her
attorneys' cumulative effort on the case, we have never
held that a court is required to issue a cumulative
award for both fee and non-fee claims when those claims are
factually linked. See Advanced Constr. Corp. v.
Pilecki, 2006 ME 84, ¶ 31, 901A.2dl89. Further,
regardless of whether the claims were factually related, we
assume that the record supports the court's express
finding that there was a distinction in complexity between
the fee and non-fee claims. See Rothstein, 2002 ME
179, ¶ll, 816A.2d812.
We therefore conclude that the court did not apply an
improper legal standard in evaluating Sands's request for
attorney fees, see Advanced Constr. Corp., 2006 ME
84, ¶ 31, 901 A.2d 189, and that the court's
ultimate fee award of $8, 000 does not reflect any abuse of
discretion, see Kezer, 2012 ME 54, ¶ 28, 40
A.3d 955; Mancini, 2000 ME 19, ¶ 10, 744 A.2d