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Curtis v. Stover

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

February 28, 2018

GARY CURTIS, Plaintiff
v.
MEGAN STOVER, Defendant

          JUDGMENT

          Nancy Mills Justice, Superior Court

         Jury-waived trial was held on December 4, 2018. Both parties appeared and were represented by counsel.

         In his amended complaint, plaintiff alleges four causes of action: in count I, unjust enrichment; in count II, conversion; in count III, money had and received; and in count IV, fraud, misrepresentation, and deceit. At the close of plaintiff's evidence, defendant moved for judgment as a matter of law on all counts. M.R. Civ. P. 50(d). The court granted the motion on count IV, fraud, misrepresentation, and deceit. The court took the motion under advisement on the remaining three counts. For the following reasons, judgment as a matter of law is entered on counts I, II, and III in favor of defendant.

         FACTS

         Defendant was married to Dominique Stover in June 2008. They had three children, who are now eleven, seven, and five years old. In 2010, they bought a home in South Portland. They sold that house on August 17, 2012 and bought a four-unit home in Westbrook on the same date. (Exs. 4-5.) Defendant was a stay-at-home mother from 2010 to 2013. They separated in June 2014 and reconciled in late 2014 or early 2015. Mr. Stover died from a drug overdose in November 2015. His estate was valued at negative $10, 000.00.

         Plaintiff and Mr. Stover were friends. Mr. Stover was a carpenter and defendant was his office manager. Mr. Stover proposed to plaintiff a plan to buy a house, repair it, and sell it for a profit. Plaintiff loaned Mr. Stover $5, 000.00 to research potential properties to buy. (Ex. 1.) Plaintiff met Mr. Stover at his home and was presented with a contract, which Mr. Stover had prepared. (Ex. 2.) Mr. Stover was not a good businessman so defendant assisted him by typing estimates or contracts that he prepared. Plaintiff and Mr. Stover signed the contract and plaintiff wrote and gave a check to Mr. Stover for $60, 000.00. (Ex. 3.) At trial, plaintiff agreed that defendant did not sign the contract, made no promises to plaintiff, and was not involved in the plan to buy, repair, and sell a house.

         Mr. Stover called plaintiff and stated Mr. Stover had purchased a multi-family house in Westbrook, Maine. After the house was renovated, the Stovers moved in and rented the other units. Mr. Stover stated he would eventually sell the house but never did.

         After plaintiff received only $1, 440.00 in cash from Mr. Stover, plaintiff became worried and filed a lawsuit against Mr. Stover in 2013. Plaintiff made no allegations against defendant. (Ex. 9; see also Exs. 12, 15, 36, 45.) In 2014, plaintiff prevailed in the lawsuit and was awarded a judgment against Mr. Stover in the amount of $63, 560.00, interest, costs, and 50% of the net proceeds from the sale of the Westbrook property. (Ex. 15.) Plaintiff received total payments of $600.00 from Mr. Stover.

         In January 2016, plaintiff saw a sign in front of the Westbrook property that indicated the house was under contract. Plaintiff called his attorney, who stated that the house had been sold in January 2016 and Mr. Stover had died. Plaintiff filed a petition against Mr. Stover's estate in Probate Court. Plaintiff made no allegations against defendant. The petition was not allowed because the estate was insolvent and defendant had received nothing from the sale of the Westbrook property. (Ex. 24.) Defendant's father forgave a secured loan on the property so it could be sold and he paid Mr. Stover's funeral expenses.[1] (Ex. 11.) The proceeds from the sale of the Westbrook property were paid to defendant's father. (Exs. 17-18.)

         Defendant's name was not on Mr. Stover's Bank of America business or personal checking accounts. (Exs. 51-52.) They did have a joint account at Bangor Savings Bank. During trial, evidence of deposits to, and expenditures for household expenses from, bank accounts was presented. Mr. Stover managed the family's finances through an app on his phone. He gave defendant money to spend and, on occasion, a debit card to use for family expenses. He specified how the money was to be spent, generally for food and bills. Defendant went to the food pantry multiple times for food for the family. She assumed the money in the accounts that was given to her for expenses was from Mr. Stover's employment income because he went to work every day and they filed tax returns. Defendant was not involved in the family finances and first reviewed the banking records at her deposition on February 3, 2017.

         Defendant knew that plaintiff loaned Mr. Stover $65, 000.00 to buy, repair, and sell a house. She did not notice that she was given additional money for expenses after January 6, 2012. She does not know what Mr. Stover did with plaintiff's money. No money was given to her directly from plaintiff's money, she was not involved in the transaction, and did not promise to repay the money to plaintiff. After Mr. Stover's death, defendant learned for the first time about his lifestyle, including the extent of his drug use and that he had a girlfriend and a second family.

         DISCUSSION

         Rule 5O(d)

         When considering defendant's Rule 50(d) motion, "the court can weigh the evidence and assess credibility." Bartlett v. Lindahl,560 A.2d 563, 564 n.l (Me. 1989). Defendant's testimony that she did not know what Mr. Stover did with plaintiff's money and she assumed the money Mr. Stover gave her was from his business income was ...


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