CHAUNCEY W. CLARK
Argued: May 16, 2018
Jonathan W. Brogan, Esq. (orally), and David A. Goldman,
Esq., Norman, Hanson & DeTroy, LLC, Portland, for
appellant Benton, LLC.
William C. Herbert, Esq. (orally), and Christian J. Lewis,
Esq., Hardy, Wolf & Downing, P.A., Lewiston, for appellee
Chauncey W. Clark.
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
Benton, LLC, appeals from the Superior Court's (Kennebec
County, Stokes, J.) order denying its motion for
summary judgment and rejecting its claim that section 104 of
the Maine Workers' Compensation Act of 1992 (the Act),
39-A M.R.S. § 104 (2017), provides it with immunity from
Chauncey W. Clark's negligence suit for injuries
sustained on its property in Benton, Maine. Benton, LLC,
argues that once Hammond Lumber Company, Clark's actual
employer, secured workers' compensation for Clark's
injuries and lost wages, section 104 of the Act immunized
Hammond Lumber Company and Benton, LLC, from Clark's
negligence action because these entities are functionally one
and the same. Benton, LLC, reasons that an extension of our
dual persona doctrine regarding the scope of the Act's
immunity and exclusivity provisions provides it with immunity
from Clark's suit as a matter of law. We disagree and
affirm the judgment.
"The following facts, viewed in the light most favorable
to [Clark], are drawn from the statements of material facts
and, except where otherwise indicated, are undisputed."
Deschenes v. City of Sanford, 2016 ME 56, ¶ 3,
In 2012, Donald Hammond created and became the sole member of
Benton, LLC, a Maine limited liability company. At that time,
he was the president of Hammond Lumber Company, a Maine
corporation; he is currently that company's vice
president. Benton, LLC, was formed, according to its annual
reports, for the purpose of "owning and operating real
estate." Michael Hammond, the current president of
Hammond Lumber Company, states in an affidavit that Benton,
LLC, was formed by his company as one of the so-called
"Hammond Lumber LLCs," with a purpose "to
purchase at auction, using funds provided by Donald Hammond,
and own the assets of a company that had gone out of business
called Benton Hardwood Lumber."
Hammond Lumber Company does not own the real estate on which
its stores that were acquired after 1989 are located. Each of
those parcels "is owned by a distinct limited liability
company" (a Hammond Lumber LLC). Hammond Lumber Company
directs all of the operations of the LLCs, and one of the
Hammond shareholders owns each LLC. The LLCs, including
Benton, LLC, have no independent business or employees.
In 2009, Hammond Lumber Company hired Clark as a yard worker.
On February 12, 2015, Clark and his manager from the Hammond
Lumber Company store in Fairfield visited the property owned
by Benton, LLC, which contains buildings that Hammond Lumber
Company maintained. Clark's manager identified the
rooftops of the buildings from which Clark was to remove
snow. The following day, Clark returned with a number of his
coworkers and, while clearing snow, fell through a skylight
on one of the buildings and sustained significant injuries.
Clark filed a worker's compensation claim, and Hammond
Lumber Company, through its insurance carrier, paid the claim
in accordance with the Workers' Compensation Act.
On May 8, 2017, Clark filed a complaint alleging three
negligence claims against Benton, LLC, for its failure to (1)
properly maintain the property; (2) provide premises
reasonably safe for his work; and (3) warn him of dangerous
conditions that Benton, LLC, knew or should have known
existed. After it filed its answer, Benton, LLC, moved for
summary judgment on all counts, asserting that, once Hammond
Lumber Company secured compensation for Clark's injuries
and lost wages, it was immune from the negligence suit.
Clark argued that summary judgment proceedings were premature
pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 56(f), because Clark had conducted
no substantive discovery to test the truth of the assertions
of material facts by Benton, LLC. On August 15, 2017, Clark
moved to amend his complaint by adding six negligence claims
against Donald Hammond personally, as sole owner and member
of Benton, LLC. On October 10, 2017, the court denied the
motion for summary judgment, which rendered moot Clark's