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Watson v. Bowker

Superior Court of Maine, Sagadahoc

November 6, 2017

TROY WATSON, Plaintiff,
v.
GEORGE E. BOWKER, and CAROL DOUGHTY, in her capacity as Conservator of George E. Bowker, Defendants.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          DANIEL I. BILLINGS, JUSTICE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

         I. Background

         In 1975, Virginia Watson, Plaintiff's mother, approached George Bowker, Defendant, about purchasing a piece of real estate on which to place a trailer. (Compl. ¶¶ 6-7). Defendant agreed to sell Ms. Watson a four-acre parcel for $4, 500. (Compl. ¶ 8). Ms. Watson attempted to pay Defendant, who refused to accept her money, telling her that she should use it for her family. (Compl. ¶¶ 10-11). Ms. Watson attempted to pay Defendant "on numerous occasions" over the years, and Defendant continually refused, saying they would "settle up later." (Compl. ¶ 15). In the early 1980's, Ms. Watson's oldest son approached Defendant on several occasions to pay him for the land, and Defendant similarly refused. (Compl. ¶ 16).

         Sometime between the 1980's and 1998, Defendant sold to other persons three of the four acres that he had agreed to sell to Ms. Watson. (Compl. ¶¶ 17, 20). It is Plaintiff's belief that Defendant's refusal to deed the land to Plaintiff's mother allowed him to avoid subdivision regulation in selling off those other three acres. (Compl. ¶ 18).

         Upon Ms. Watson's death in 1998, Plaintiff was the sole heir to the land promised by Defendant, and succeeded to any rights in it held by Ms. Watson. (Compl. ¶¶ 20-22).

         On November 5, 2007, Plaintiff gave, and Defendant accepted, a $2, 000 payment towards the land. (Compl. ¶¶ 23-24). In the following months, Plaintiff gave, and Defendant accepted, two other payments of $500 each. (Compl. ¶ 25).

         Since 2007, Defendant has acknowledged the pending land transaction and told Plaintiff that that he would "get that cleaned up" or "take care of that land" or "deed over that land" soon. (Compl. ¶ 27). Plaintiff relied on these statements and had no reason to question Defendant's intention to honor the deal. (Compl. ¶¶ 28-29). Although Defendant was known for making "loose, unwritten land deals on a regular basis" because "he liked to work in cash and without the confines of a written agreement," Plaintiff believed that Defendant had always intended to close the deal. (Compl. ¶ 19, 30).

         In March 2017, Defendant told Plaintiff he was dying and wanted to take care of the land deal. (Compl. ¶¶ 31). Later that month, Plaintiff visited Defendant at his home, where both parties agreed that Defendant would deed the land to Plaintiff for $1. (Compl. ¶¶ 32-34). The deed was never delivered. (Compl. ¶ 36). In July, Defendant was declared incompetent and his conservator, and Co-Defendant, refused to complete the transaction. (Compl. ¶¶ 3, 4, 36).

         Plaintiff commenced this action to compel specific performance and other relief. Defendant moves to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         II. Standard of Review

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) "tests the legal sufficiency of the allegations in the complaint, not the sufficiency of the evidence the plaintiffs are able to present." Barnes v. McGough, 623 A.2d 144, 145 (Me. 1993) (internal citations omitted). The court shall "consider the facts in the complaint as if they were admitted." Bonney v. Stephens Mem. Hosp., 2011 ME 46, ¶ 16, 17 A.3d 123, 127. The complaint is viewed "in the light most favorable to the plaintiff to determine whether it sets forth elements of a cause of action or alleges facts that would entitle the plaintiff to relief pursuant to some legal theory." Id. (quoting Sounders v. Tisher, 2006 ME 94, ¶ 8, 902 A.2d 830, 832). "Dismissal is warranted when it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff is not entitled to relief under any set of facts that he might prove in support of his claim." Id.

         III. Discussion

         Defendant makes multiple arguments in his Motion regarding whether Plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief may be granted. A decision on the application of the statute of limitations is determinative, therefore a discussion on the other arguments is not necessary.

         The Complaint contains three counts: breach of contract, fraud, and violation of the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act (5 M.R.S. § 205-A, et seq.). (Compl. ¶¶ 37-53). Each of these has a six-year statute of ...


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