JOHN F. CHASE, Plaintiff and Counterclaim Defendant
BRUCE G. CHASE, Defendant and Counterclaim Plaintiff and JANET CHASE, Counterclaim Plaintiff
Plaintiff's Counsel: Gene Libby, Esq. Tyler Smith, Esq.
Libby O'Brien Kingsley & Champion
Defs' Counsel: Sheilah McLaughlin, Esq. Law Office of
DECISION AND JUDGMENT
trial on the counterclaim for unjust enrichment in this civil
case was held July 11-12, 2018, after which the parties
submitted post-hearing briefs, at which point the court took
the case under advisement.
case originated with Plaintiff John Chase's complaint to
enforce the provision of a promissory note given to him by
Defendant Bruce Chase that required Bruce Chase to designate
John Chase solely and irrevocably as the beneficiary of
certain life insurance policies insuring Bruce Chase's
response to John Chase's complaint, Bruce Chase filed a
counterclaim against John Chase, and was joined as a
counterclaim plaintiff by Janet Chase, Bruce Chase's
wife. See M.R. Civ. P. 20(a). Janet Chase and Bruce
Chase's counterclaim alleged that John Chase was liable
to them for breaching an oral contract, the details of which
are set forth below. The counterclaim went through a couple
of iterations, the most recent of which is captioned New
Chase moved for summary judgment in his favor on his
complaint and on Bruce and Janet Chase's New Amended
Counterclaim. Bruce and Janet Chase opposed John Chase's
motion in all respects. In an order dated and docketed
December 15, 2017, the court granted John Chase's motion
for summary judgment as it related to his complaint, and
granted his motion in part as it related to Bruce and Janet
Chase's New Amended Counterclaim for breach of express
contract. See Order on Plaintiffs Motion for Summary
Judgment (Dec. 15, 2017).
court denied John Chase's summary judgment motion to the
extent Bruce and Janet Chase were pursuing a claim for
restitution based on unjust enrichment and part performance
of the alleged oral contract. It is those claims that went to
trial in July 2018.
of Fact and Conclusions of Law
on the entire record, the court makes and adopts the
following findings of fact and conclusions of law, and
renders judgment as set forth below.
Plaintiff and Counterclaim Defendant John Chase and Defendant
and Counterclaim Plaintiff Bruce Chase are brothers. John
Chase is 53 years old; Bruce Chase is 66 years old.
Counterclaim Plaintiff Janet Chase is Bruce Chase's wife.
John Chase and Bruce Chase are both former police
officers-John Chase having been with the Westbrook Police
Department and Bruce Chase with the Portland Police
While still employed with the Westbrook police, John Chase
began a construction business that eventually expanded to the
point that he decided to leave police work and devote himself
full-time to the business, which is now known as Chase Custom
Homes and Finance, LLC ["Chase Custom Homes”].
John Chase owns and operates several other businesses,
including one called Auto Shine Car Wash.
all relevant times, John Chase has owned a residential
property in Naples, Maine. The property, known as Big Bear
Point, consists of multiple acres and has several substantial
residences and other buildings, as well as significant
frontage on Long Lake. With limited exceptions, John Chase
has resided at the Big Bear Point property in recent years.
After leaving law enforcement, Bruce Chase became involved in
the property repair and maintenance field. He owned and
operated a property maintenance and handyman business in
greater Portland for some years, until 2009. One of his
commercial customers was the Infinity Federal Credit Union.
At some point, Infinity retained a property management firm,
Dirigo Management, to handle property maintenance, and Bruce
Chase continued, either as a Dirigo employee or as an
Bruce Chase encouraged the management at Infinity to use John
Chase's construction business for construction and
renovation project. However, John Chase had developed his own
associations with Infinity management. Although Infinity
hired John Chase's company to do well over a million
dollars in construction work over the years, the evidence did
not show that Bruce Chase's recommendations were the
reason why John Chase's company got this business.
2000, around the time Bruce and Janet Chase were married,
Chase Custom Homes built and sold them a new home on a
residential building lot at 25 Chase Hill Road in
Westbrook. As a wedding gift to Bruce and Janet Chase, John
Chase arranged for his company to sell the home to Bruce and
Janet Chase at the company's cost for constructing the
residence, and did not charge Bruce and Janet Chase for the
cost of the lot. The price Bruce and Janet Chase paid for the
property was substantially less than the property's
market value at the time of the purchase, although the
evidence was too conflicting for the court to set a value on
facilitate the closing, John Chase asked Bruce and Janet
Chase to execute a durable power of attorney in favor of John
Chase's attorney, Richard Abbondanza, Esq., and attorney
Abbondanza handled the closing on behalf of Bruce and Janet
Chase. The power of attorney apparently was still in effect
as of the time of trial.
After Dirigo Management took over responsibility for property
management and maintenance at the Infinity Federal Credit
Union, Bruce Chase became increasingly dissatisfied with his
work, and he often shared his dissatisfaction with John Chase
during their conversations.
New Year's Eve in 2009, John Chase and his wife at the
time, Sherry Chase, and Bruce and Janet Chase all went to
dinner at the DiMillo's restaurant in Portland. Over
dinner, John and Sherry Chase made what Bruce and Janet Chase
characterized as a "life-changing proposal." The
parties agree that the proposal covered the following
● Bruce Chase would leave his property repair and
maintenance business and Janet Chase would leave her job,
which involved administrative work at Mercy Hospital. Janet
Chase was working about 32 hours per week at an annual salary
of $26, 000.
● Bruce and Janet Chase would sell their home on Chase
Hill Road, so that they could move into a residence to be
provided for them rent-free on the Big Bear Point property in
Naples. In recognition of the rent-free living arrangement,
the net proceeds of sale of Bruce and Janet Chase's home
would be turned over to John and Sherry Chase to help defray
their costs associated with the proposal.
● Bruce Chase would be responsible for maintenance of
the Big Bear Point property at an annual salary of $65, 000
per year, which he told John was what he had been earning in
his business. Janet Chase would work on personal
administrative tasks and projects for John and Sherry Chase
at an annual salary of $26, 000, matching what she had been
earning at her job with Mercy Hospital.
● John Chase would pay for Bruce and Janet Chase's
health insurance coverage.
● Bruce and Janet Chase could stay at a Florida
property owned by John Chase for periods over the winter. It
does not appear there was any specific discussion about how
often-or for how long-Bruce and Janet Chase could stay at the
Although the parties agree about the foregoing aspects of
John and Sherry Chase's proposal, they disagree about the
duration of what John and ...