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Poulin v. Thomas

Superior Court of Maine, Somerset

November 13, 2017

EMILY POULIN, Plaintiff
v.
DEBORAH THOMAS, Defendant

          ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Robert E. Mullen, Deputy Chief Justice

         This matter came before the undersigned on November 9, 2017 with respect to the Defendant's Motion For Summary Judgment filed 7/28/17. Plaintiff filed her Memorandum in Opposition to the Defendant's Motion For Summary Judgment on 9/6/17, and Defendant filed her Reply to Plaintiff's Memorandum Of Law in Opposition To Defendant's Motion For Summary Judgment on 9/20/17. After reviewing the file and applicable case law, and after counsel for the parties waived oral argument with respect to the motion, the undersigned enters the following Order based upon the reasons set forth below:

         I. Procedural and Factual History:

         1. On or about 2/7/13, Plaintiff Emily Poulin (hereinafter "Plaintiff") came to the home of Defendant Deborah Thomas (hereinafter "Defendant") in Fairfield, Maine. (S.M.F. ¶ 1).

         2. While at the home Plaintiff stood on a dining room chair, she says at the suggestion of the Defendant, to move a shelf that was on the kitchen wall. (S.M.F. ¶ 12). Defendant denies she made any suggestion to Plaintiff concerning the use of a chair. Affidavit of Defendant at ¶ 5-6. In any event, Plaintiff fell from the chair and alleges injuries sustained as a result of her fall. (S.M.F. ¶¶ 3-4). Plaintiff felt the chair was sturdy before she fell. (S.M.F. ¶ 7).

         3. Plaintiff does not know what made her fall (S.M.F. ¶ 5); however, Plaintiff contends that Defendant knew the chair used by Plaintiff was structurally unsound and that Defendants had attempted to repair it by putting screws in it. (Complaint at ¶ 10). Plaintiff contends one of the legs of the chair that had a screw in it was dislodged from the seat of the chair, as evidenced by a photograph taken of the chair after the incident. (Affidavit of PL dated 9/27/17 at ¶ 19). However, Plaintiff also states that she believed the chair was sturdy and did not inspect it before standing on it. (S.M.F. ¶¶ 7-8).

         4. Defendant denies putting any screws in the chair, and denies the chair was wobbly. (Def.'s Resp. to Add. S.M.F. ¶ 16; Def.'s Dep. p. 23). Defendant also disputes that certain photographs of a chair with screws in it are photographs of the same chair from which Plaintiff fell (Def.'s Resp. To Add. S.M.F. ¶¶ 29-30), while Plaintiff contends that the pictures of the chair were taken in Plaintiffs presence and were taken of a chair that the Defendant had produced in response to a request from Plaintiff to produce the chair from which Plaintiff had fallen. (Pi's Affidavit dated 9/27/17 at ¶¶ 17-19).

         5. Finally, the parties disagree as to whether Defendant was even in the room when Plaintiff fell. Affidavit of Defendant at ¶ 7; Affidavit of Plaintiff at ¶9.

         II. Standard of Review:

         6. Summary Judgment is only appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, referred to in the statements (of material fact) show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact set forth in those statements and that any party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." M.R. Civ. P. 56(c). A material fact is one that can affect the outcome of the case, and there is a genuine issue when there is sufficient evidence for a fact-finder to choose between competing versions of the fact. North East Ins. Co. v. Young, 2011 ME 89, ¶ 17.

         7. The Court will draw any reasonable inferences that a fact-finder could draw from the given facts in favor of the non-moving party. Curtis v. Porter, 2001 ME 158, ¶ 9. When facts or reasonable inferences are in dispute on a material point, the Court will not enter summary judgment. Id.

         III. Discussion:

         8. The Plaintiff is alleging "negligence" on the part of the Defendant, presumably in attempting to "repair" the chair the Plaintiff was standing on when she fell, as evidenced that one of the legs of the chair dislodged while Plaintiff was standing on the chair, causing her to fall. See Complaint at ¶ 10, 12, and 13.

         9. The Plaintiff is also alleging that Defendant owed Plaintiff "a duty of reasonable care and to guard against foreseeable dangers..." see Complaint at ΒΆ 9, and presumably that the chair repaired by ...


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