Argued: May 10, 2017
Jeffrey C. Toothaker, Esq. (orally), Ellsworth, for appellant
Thomas E. Palmer.
Jonathan R. Liberman, District Attorney (orally), District
Attorney's Office, Bath, for appellee State of Maine.
Margaret Machaiek, Esq., Briggs & Wholey, Rockport, for
amicus curiae Maine Trial Lawyers Association.
Boxer-Macomber, Esq., and Stephen Koerting, Esq., Kelly,
Remmel & Zimmerman, Portland, for amicus curiae The
Bicycle Coalition of Maine.
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
Thomas E. Palmer appeals from adjudications entered by the
trial court (Sagadahoc County, Raimondi, /.) after a
consolidated nonjury trial that found that Palmer committed
the traffic infraction of "failure to maintain control
of a motor vehicle, " 29-A M.R.S. § 2118(2)(B)
(2016), and committed the civil violation of "motor
vehicle violation resulting in death, " 29-A M.R.S.
§ 2413-A(1) (2016). Palmer contends that the court erred
in its interpretations of the relevant statutes and that the
evidence was insufficient to support the court's
adjudications. We affirm the judgments.
The following factual findings are supported by competent
evidence in the trial record. On August 13, 2015, at around
4:30 p.m., Palmer crashed his truck into the rear end of a
car also driving northbound on Route One in Woolwich. Before
the crash, the driver of the car had activated his turn
signal and slowed down to turn left onto a side road. Due to
oncoming southbound traffic, the driver of the car was not
able to turn immediately, so he came to a stop and waited for
an opportunity to turn. The driver looked in his rearview
mirror and saw Palmer's truck "coming up behind him
and coming up behind him, " swerve toward the yellow
center line as it came closer to his car, and then swerve
back toward the white fog line at the last second.
Palmer's truck then crashed into the driver's car.
The impact pushed the driver's car into the southbound
lane of traffic, where it collided with a van. The van spun
into the northbound lane, where it collided with an SUV. A
passenger in the van died from injuries caused by the crash.
At the time of the crash, the road was dry, the driver's
turn signal was on, and there was nothing that would have
obscured Palmer's view. Palmer did not apply the brakes
before his truck crashed into the car. During interviews
conducted after the crash, Palmer stated that he "looked
up, " saw the car right in front of him, and tried to
On August 31, 2015, a law enforcement officer issued Palmer a
violation summons and complaint for the traffic infraction of
failure to maintain control of a motor vehicle. See
29-A M.R.S. § 2118; 29-A M.R.S. § 103 (2016); M.R.
Civ. P. 80F(b). On December 22, 2015, the State charged
Palmer in a single-count complaint with the civil violation
of "motor vehicle violation resulting in death".
See 17-A M.R.S. § 4-B (2016); 29-A M.R.S.
§ 2413-A; M.R. Civ. P. 80H(b). Palmer contested the
traffic infraction and entered a "deny" plea to the
civil violation charge. The cases were consolidated for a
nonjury trial, which the court held on April 7, 2016.
After the State and Palmer rested and delivered closing
arguments, the court rendered its findings of fact and
conclusions of law orally on the record. The court stated:
Whatever distracted [Palmer], the evidence indicates . . .
that he was distracted. Whether the [L]egislature intended or
whether the statute means that it has to be . . . something
as definite as texting or as definite as reading a paper is
not entirely clear to me. But if he weren't distracted, I
think he ...