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Moody v. Heirs of Rideout

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

June 13, 2018

WALTER SCOTT MOODY, Plaintiff
v.
HEIRS OF EDNA O. RIDEOUT and AMBER MASON, Defendants

          ORDER ON PENDING MOTIONS

          NANCY MILLS JUSTICE

         Before the court are defendant and counterclaim plaintiff Amber Mason's motion for partial summary judgment and plaintiff and counterclaim defendant Walter Scotty Moody's cross-motion for partial summary judgment. Defendant Mason seeks a judgment in her favor on count I of her counterclaim and on counts I, II, III, and IV of plaintiff's complaint. Plaintiff seeks a judgment in his favor on the same counts. For the following reasons, defendant Mason's motion is denied and plaintiff's motion is denied in part and granted in part.

         Background

         The dispute in this action centers on the ownership of a ledge located in intertidal land adjacent to separate upland parcels of land owned by the plaintiff and defendant Mason. (Def. Mason's Supp'g S.M.F. ¶¶ 4, 6, 7, 27; Pl.'s Opp'g S.M.F. ¶¶ 4, 6, 7.) On April 18, 2017, plaintiff filed a complaint against both defendant Mason and the heirs of Edna O. Rideout and alleged four causes of action: count I, quiet title; count II, adverse possession; count III, prescriptive easement; and count IV, declaratory judgment. On May 4, 2017, defendant filed an answer and counterclaim and alleged seven causes of action: count I, declaratory judgment; count II, expungement; count III, slander of title; count IV, trespass; count VI, nuisance; count VII, intentional infliction of emotional distress; and count VIII, punitive damages. On October 2, 2017, default was entered against defendants Heirs of Edna Rideout. On October 5, 2017, the court dismissed count II of defendant's counterclaim. On October 23, 2017, defendant filed an amended counterclaim containing an additional cause of action: count IX, common law trespass.

         On February 13, 2018, defendant Mason filed a motion for partial summary judgment on all of plaintiff's causes of action as well as count one of her counterclaim, in which she seeks declaratory relief. On March 12, 2018, plaintiff filed an opposition to defendant's motion as well as a cross motion for partial summary judgment on the same counts. On April 11, 2018, defendant Mason filed a reply to plaintiff's opposition and an opposition to plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment. On April 24, 2018, plaintiff filed a reply in support of his cross-motion for summary judgment.

         Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the record reflects that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to a 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." Lougee Conservancy v. CitiMortgage. Inc., 2012 ME 103, ¶ 11, 48 A.3d 774 (quotation omitted). When reviewing cross-motions for summary judgment, the court "analyze[s] each motion separately, giving the opposing party the benefit of any reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the presented facts." F.R. Carrol. Inc. v. TD Bank, N.A., 2010 ME 115, ¶ 8, 8 A.3d 646.

         Analysis

         1. Defendant Mason's Counterclaim Count One: Declaratory Judgment

         Both plaintiff and defendant Mason request that summary judgment should be granted in their favor on count one of defendant Mason's counterclaim, in which she seeks a declaration that defendant Mason owns the disputed intertidal land. Plaintiff argues that defendant Mason cannot obtain declaratory relief because (1) plaintiff has obtained title by adverse possession and (2) defendant Mason does not hold record title to the disputed intertidal land. Defendant Mason argues that (1) her chain of title unambiguously shows that she is the record title owner of the property and (2) plaintiff cannot establish a claim for adverse possession because his and his family's use of the intertidal land for fishing activities is a permitted public use. The court first addresses whether defendant Mason has obtained title to the disputed land by deed.

         "Construction of the language of a deed ... is a question of law. The existence and nature of particular boundaries is a question of law and the location of those boundaries is a question of fact." Eaton v. Town of Wells, 2000 ME 176.¶ 19, 760 A.2d 232 (internal citation omitted). When interpreting a deed, the court determines the controlling intent of the parties from the face of the deed. Snyder v. Haagen, 679 A.2d 510, 513 (Me. 1996). Parties to a deed must follow certain rules of law to effectuate their intent; a failure to do so may result in consequences the parties did not intend. Hodgdon v. Campbell, 411 A.2d 667, 672 (Me. 1980). One such rule is that "as a matter of law a deed reference 'by the shore' calls for a measurement along the contour of the high-water mark." Id.

         Both parties agree that the first deed in defendant's chain of title, the 1924 Wallace to Rideout deed, included title to the intertidal land. (Def. Mason's Supp'g S.M.F. ¶ 3; Pl.'s Opp'g S.M.F. ¶ 3; Pl.'s Supp'g S.M.F. ¶¶ 75-77; Def. Mason's Opp'g S.M.F. ¶¶ 75-77.) The parties, however, dispute whether subsequent deeds, beginning with the 1931 Rideout to Blackwell deed, conveyed title to the intertidal land. (Pl.'s Supp'g S.M.F. ¶¶ 80-81; Def.'s Opp'g S.M.F. ¶¶ 80- 81.) The Wallace to Rideout Deed describes the property boundaries as follows:

[b]eginning at an iron bolt in the ledge on said shore; thence running northerly along said river one hundred and forty feet (140) an iron rod and oak tree and a corner; thence westerly ... to another oak tree .. . thence southerly ... to an iron rod . . . thence easterly . . . to the shores of New Meadows River and the iron rod at the point of beginning.

(Pl.'s Supp'g S.M.F. ¶ 76; Barnicle Aff. Ex. A(i).) The subsequent Rideout to Blackwell deed describes the property as follows:

[b]eginning at an iron bolt set in the ledge on the shores of New Meadows River; thence running northerly along the said shores of the New Meadows River one hundred forty (140) feet to an iron rod and an oak tree and a corner; thence westerly ... to another oak tree . . . thence southerly ... to an iron rod . .. thence easterly to the shores of said New Meadows River and the iron rod which is the point of beginning.

(Pl.'s Supp'g S.M.F. ¶ 80; Barnicle Aff. Ex. A(ii).) All but one of the subsequent deeds use the same "along the said shores" and "to the shores" language. (PL's Supp'g S.M.F. ¶ 81; Barnicle Aff. Ex.'s A(iii)-(v), A(vii)-(x).) The August 13, 1964 deed from Walter Wallace to Beatrice Lucas describes the lot as "a certain lot or parcel described in Paragraph 1 of a Warranty Deed from Robert S. Watson to Walter L. Wallace dated May 23, 1950." (Barnicle Aff. Ex. A(v).) The May 1950 Watson to Wallace deed uses ...


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