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Lalumiere v. Sea View Homeowners Association

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

December 20, 2018

MARILYN LALUMIERE and MARIE KOERICK, Plaintiffs
v.
SEA VIEW HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, Defendant

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          NANCY MILLS, JUDGE.

         Before the court is defendant's motion to dismiss. For the following reasons, the motion is denied as to counts I-VI and granted partially and denied partially as to counts VII and VIII. Defendant's motion for a more definitive statement is denied.

         Standard

         When ruling on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to M.R. Civ. P, 12(b)(6), the court views the "facts alleged in the complaint as if they were admitted." Nadeau v. Frydrych, 2014 ME 154, ¶ 5, 108 A.3d 1254 (per curiam) (quotation marks omitted). A complaint need only set forth the "elements of a cause of action or allege[] facts that would entitle the plaintiff to relief pursuant to some legal theory." Id. Facts are read in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Id.

         Rule 8 requires "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." M.R. Civ. P. 8(a). "Notice pleadings requirements are forgiving; the plaintiff need only give fair notice of the cause of action by providing a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Desjardins v. Reynolds, 2017 ME 99, ¶ 17, 162 A.3d 228 (quotation marks omitted).

         Counts I-IV: Prescriptive Easements

         In order to prevail on a motion to dismiss, plaintiffs must allege in their prescriptive easement claim continuous use for at least 20 years, a claim of right adverse to the owner, and the use was with the knowledge and acquiescence of the owner or was "a use so open, notorious, visible, and uninterrupted that knowledge and acquiescence will be presumed." Dowley v. Morency, 1999 ME 137, ¶ 23, 737 A.2d 1061 (quoting Shadan v. Town of Skowhegan, 1997 ME 187, ¶ 6, 700 A.2d 245); see also 14 M.R.S. § 812 (2016) ("No person ... shall acquire a right-of-way or other easement through, in, upon or over the land of another by the adverse use and enjoyment thereof, unless it is continued uninterruptedly for 20 years.").

         Plaintiffs allege that they and their predecessors in interest have used the property and the lower parking lot continuously for 20 years, that they have used the property adverse to the owner, and that they did so with the knowledge and acquiescence of the owner of the property or with a use such that knowledge and acquiescence will be presumed. (Pls.' Compl. ¶¶ 4, 19-20, 22, 24-25, 27), Plaintiffs allege sufficient facts to support their prescriptive easement claims.

         Count V: Declaratory Judgment

         Pursuant to the Paper Streets Act:

From the date of recording of a subdivision plan in the registry of deeds, the public acquires rights of incipient dedication to public use of the ways laid out on the plan. If a proposed way laid out in the plan is not accepted by the municipality within 20 years from the date of recording of the plan, the public rights in that way terminate.

23 M.R.S. 3031(1) (2016). Plaintiffs allege that the defendant's most recent subdivision plan depicting Ravine Road was submitted in 2005. (Pls.' Compl. ¶ 32.) Plaintiffs further allege that the town of Falmouth has not acted in respect to Ravine Road. (Pls.' Compl. ¶ 33.) Defendant argues that Ravine Road is a private way due to its depiction on the Underwood Plan and the lack of construction or use as a way. See Fournier v. Elliot, 2009 ME 25, ¶ 15, 966 A.2d 410 ("[T]he term 'proposed, unaccepted way' is indicative of the status of a subdivision road as it pertains to its potential adoption by a municipality, not as it pertains to its physical construction.").

         Count VI: Quiet Title

         Plaintiffs' claim for quiet title is brought pursuant to 23 M.R.S. § 3033 (2016) and 14 M.R.S. § 6651 (2016). (Pls.' Compl. ¶¶ 35-39.) A party claiming ownership of a vacated way must post a notice claiming ownership with the registry of deeds where the way is located and give notice to current owners of lots on the subdivision plan on which the vacated way is located. 23 M.R.S. § 3033(1). Once notice has been given, a claimant who disputes the first party's claim must record a statement with the registry of deeds within one year of the original notice specifying the claimed interest and commence an action in equity within 180 days of filing his statement. Id. § 3033(2). In the following quiet title proceeding, the court may find in favor of the claimant only if "the claimant has acquired an interest in the way" pursuant to a quiet title theory, and "a deprivation of the claimant's rights will unreasonably limit access from his or her land to a public way, a public body of water, or common land or a common facility within the subdivision." Glidden v. Belden,684 A.2d 1306, 1315 ...


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