Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Avis Rent A Car System, LLC v. Burrill

Supreme Court of Maine

June 19, 2018

AVIS RENT A CAR SYSTEM, LLC
v.
DARRON BURRILL

          Argued: March 7, 2018

          Walter F. McKee, Esq., and Henry E.M. Beck, Esq. (orally), McKee Law, P.A., Augusta, for appellant Darron Burrill.

          Cheryl J. Cutliffe, Esq. (orally), Basham & Scott, LLC, Brunswick, for appellee Avis Rent A Car System, LLC.

          Panel: ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          Majority: MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          HUMPHREY, J.

         [¶1] Darron Burrill appeals from a partial summary judgment entered in favor of Avis Rent A Car System, LLC, on Avis's claim for breach of contract in the District Court (Skowhegan).[1] Burrill challenges the court's [Fowle, J.) determination, issued as a partial summary judgment, that he is liable to Avis for breach of contract and the court's [E. Walker, J.) determinations of damages and attorney fees, awarded after an evidentiary hearing. Avis cross-appeals, challenging the court's failure to award it pre- and post-judgment interest. We affirm the partial summary judgment as to liability for breach of contract but vacate the award of damages and remand for further proceedings.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The following facts relating to liability are taken from the parties' statements of material fact and reflect the record as viewed in the light most favorable to Burrill as the nonprevailing party. See Oceanic Inn, Inc. v. Sloan's Cove, LLC, 2016 ME 34, ¶ 25, 133 A.3d 1021. Facts relating to Avis's alleged damages are as found by the court.

         [¶3] On November 20, 2012, Burrill, a Maine resident, rented a 2012 Ford Mustang from an Avis location in Las Vegas, Nevada. Burrill executed a Rental Agreement and Addendum and declined the loss damage waiver protection that was offered to him. By declining the loss damage waiver, Burrill agreed to be responsible for "all loss of or damage to the car regardless of cause, or who, or what caused it." That same day, the vehicle was damaged when it was involved in an accident in Las Vegas.

         [¶4] According to Avis, the accident caused damages to the vehicle totaling $15, 342.57. Avis sent demands for payment to Burrill on January 16, 2013, April 3, 2013, and August 14, 2014, but Burrill failed or refused to pay.

         [¶5] Avis filed a complaint against Burrill in the District Court on July 20, 2015, alleging breach of contract and negligence and seeking damages. On March 31, 2016, after discovery was concluded, Avis moved for partial summary judgment to establish liability on the claim for breach of contract. The court [Fowle, J.) held oral argument on the motion on September 29, 2016.

         [¶6] In its order granting Avis's motion for partial summary judgment, the court noted the parties' agreement that the case is controlled by Nevada substantive law and Maine procedural law.[2] The court then determined that there were no genuine issues of material fact that (1) the parties entered into a valid and enforceable rental contract; (2) Burrill breached that contract; and (3) "although the parties do dispute the extent of the damages sustained during the course of the accident. . . damages did indeed occur." As a result, the court concluded that there were no genuine issues of material fact as to the elements of the claim for breach of contract and that Avis was entitled to partial summary judgment on the issue of liability as a matter of law. The court granted the motion on October 5, 2016, and ordered a hearing on damages.[3]

         [¶7] In dispute at the damages hearing on May 18, 2017, was whether the affidavit of damages executed by an Avis claims examiner included inadmissible hearsay. Several documents were attached to the affidavit: the rental agreement; a vehicle valuation report prepared for Avis by J.D. Power and Associates; a bill for towing the damaged vehicle; and a record of the vehicle's salvage value. Burrill objected to the admission of the affidavit on the ground that, other than the rental agreement, the attachments were not "business records" pursuant to the hearsay exception in M.R. Evid. 803(6). At the hearing, the court [E. Walker, /.) accepted the affidavit with its attachments de bene and did not then rule on its admissibility. Avis then called a witness to testify about the amount of damages, but Burrill objected because the identity of the testifying witness had not been disclosed prior to the hearing. Because the witness Avis had previously identified to Burrill was unable to attend, Avis brought a different witness to the hearing. The court declined to accept the testimony of the witness present. Before the hearing concluded, Avis offered a repair estimate as evidence of damages if the court determined that the attachments to the affidavit—specifically the vehicle valuation report—were inadmissible. Again, Burrill objected on the basis of hearsay, and again the court took the submission de bene, reserving its ruling on its admissibility.

         [¶8] In its order on damages, the court determined that the attachments to the affidavit, although containing hearsay, satisfied the business records exception. The court devoted most of its discussion to the vehicle valuation report.[4] The report was not prepared by the affiant, but instead by a third party, J.D. Power and Associates. The valuation report purported to provide the market value of the vehicle prior to the loss by taking into account the value of comparable vehicles with similar mileage located in a similar geographic area, as well as any damage to the vehicle prior to the loss. The affiant certified that the report was kept in the regular course of Avis's business, that the affiant maintained the report as part of her duties as a claims examiner for Avis, and that it was made reasonably soon after the incident. The court determined that there was sufficient foundation for the admissibility of the affidavit and all of the attachments.

         [¶9] Based on the information in the affidavit, the court concluded that the damages and fees claimed by Avis were reasonable and granted Avis its requested amount of $15, 342.57. It also granted Avis attorney fees totaling $5, 985.00 and costs in the amount of $433.24. The court declined to award Avis pre-or post-judgment interest.

         [¶10] Burrill appealed, challenging both the grant of Avis's motion for partial summary judgment and the award of damages. Avis cross-appealed, challenging the court's failure to award it interest and costs in the amount it requested.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Breach of Contract

         [¶11] Burrill first challenges the court's grant of partial summary judgment on the issue of breach of contract. "We review a trial court's grant of a summary judgment de novo, considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonprevailing party. Summary judgment is properly granted 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." Oceanic Inn, 2016 ME 34, ¶ 25, 133 A.3d 1021 (citation omitted) (quotation marks omitted).

         [¶12] In order for a plaintiff to succeed in a claim for breach of contract, Nevada law requires a plaintiff to show "(1) the existence of a valid contract, (2) a breach by the defendant, and (3) damage as a result of the breach." Saini v. Int'l Game Tech., 434 F.Supp.2d 913, 919-20 (D. Nev. 2006) (citing Richardson v. Jones, 1 Nev. 405, 408 (1865)).

         [¶13] The parties agreed on the following material facts: (1) Burrill rented a car from Avis on November 20, 2012; (2) the vehicle was damaged on November 20, 2012, when it was involved in an accident in Las Vegas; (3)in the rental agreement, Burrill had waived the loss damage protection and therefore agreed to be "responsible ... for all loss of or damage to the car regardless of cause, or who, or what caused it"; (4) Avis sent Burrill several demands for payment of the alleged damages prior to the lawsuit; and (5) Burrill failed or refused to pay the amount demanded. Because Burrill admitted that the car was damaged in an accident while it was rented under his name in a contractual arrangement that made him responsible for any damage to the car, and acknowledged that he refused to pay the amount demanded by Avis, there was no genuine issue of material fact that Burrill breached the rental agreement by failing to pay Avis after the car was damaged.[5]

         [¶14] Because there were no genuine issues of material fact as to (1) the existence of a valid contract; (2) breach of that contract; and (3) some amount of damage as a result of the breach, we affirm the grant of Avis's motion for partial summary judgment as to liability. See M.R. Civ. P. 56(c) ("A summary judgment, interlocutory in character, may be rendered on the issue of liability alone although there is a genuine issue as to the amount of damages.").

         B. Damages

         [¶15] Although there was no genuine issue of material fact that damage did indeed occur, the parties disputed the extent of the damages, prompting the court to order a hearing to determine the specific amount of damages. Burrill argues that the court erred and abused its discretion when it admitted, pursuant to the business records exception to the hearsay rule, the affidavit of an Avis ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.