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Johnson v. Crane

Supreme Court of Maine

June 6, 2017

KERRY A. JOHNSON et al.
v.
BARBARA C. CRANE

          Argued: May 11, 2017

         Reporter of Decisions

          Barry K. Mills, Esq. (orally), Hale & Hamlin, LLC, Ellsworth, for appellants Kerry A. Johnson and Kathleen A. Thommen

          William B. Devoe, Esq. and Kady S. Huff, Esq. (orally), Eaton Peabody, Bangor, for appellee Barbara C. Crane

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

          JABAR, J.

         [¶l] Kerry A. Johnson and Kathleen A. Thommen appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court (Hancock County, R. Murray, /.) dismissing their complaint for tortious interference with an expectancy and breach of contract against Barbara C. Crane following Crane's motion filed pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Because we conclude that the issues raised by the complaint are not yet ripe for judicial review, we vacate the court's judgment and remand for entry of a dismissal without prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The following facts, taken in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, are derived from the allegations in the complaint. See Moody v. State Liquor & Lottery Comm'n, 2004 ME 20, ¶ 7, 843 A.2d 43.

         [¶3] Jean Quayle Johnson was the mother of Kerry A. Johnson, Kathleen A. Thommen, Kim A. Johnson, and Kasey A. Reid (collectively, the children), [1]and sister of Barbara C. Crane. Jean died testate on October 31, 2015. Consistent with the terms of Jean's will, Crane filed an application for informal probate of the will and was appointed personal representative of the estate by the Hancock County Probate Court.

         [¶4] The assets of the estate include a one-half interest in JKJ Property Group, LLC, a Maine limited liability company, and one half of the outstanding shares of stock in The Colony Cottages, Inc., a Maine corporation (collectively, the properties). JKJ Property Group owns commercial land and buildings in Bar Harbor-subject to a mortgage and assignment of rents-and The Colony Cottages owns and operates seasonal rental cottages on the property owned by JKJ Property Group. Jean's will devised the properties to Crane.

         [¶5] On May 25, 2016, Kerry Johnson and Kathleen Thommen filed a complaint against Crane, and Kasey Reid and Kim Johnson were later added as interested parties. The complaint contains two counts. Count I, for tortious interference with an expected inheritance, alleges that Crane fraudulently induced Jean to bequeath the properties to Crane with the assurance that Crane would either distribute equal shares of the properties to the children or sell the properties and divide the net proceeds among the children. Count II, for breach of contract, [2] alleges that Crane agreed with Jean, as a condition of Crane becoming Jean's personal representative according to the will, to distribute among the children the properties or the net proceeds from any sale of the properties, and that Crane breached that agreement.

         [¶6] The Superior Court (Hancock County, R. Murray, J.) granted Crane's motion to dismiss pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), concluding that Count I did not satisfy the rule articulated in Shine v. Dodge,130 Me. 440, 443, 157 A. 318 (1931), that a promise to take a future action will not support an action for fraud; Count I did not state the nature, content, or scope of the children's fraud allegations with particularity pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 9(b); ...


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