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Robbing v. Secretary of State

Superior Court of Maine, Sagadahoc

February 12, 2019

TRAVIS ROBBING Petitioner
v.
SECRETARY OF STATE, Respondent.

          ORDER ON PETITIONER'S RULE 80C APPEAL

          DANIEL I. BILLINGS, JUSTICE

         INTRODUCTION

         The matter before the court is an appeal by Travis Robbins ("Petitioner"). Petitioner appeals the decision of a Bureau of Motor Vehicles' hearing officer ("HO") denying a petition for review of a three-year administrative suspension of his license under 29-A M.R.S. § 2458(2-A). This appeal has been brought in accordance with 5 M.R.S. §§ 11001-11008 (Administrative Procedure Act) and Maine Rule of Civil Procedure 80C.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On August 1, 2017, Petitioner was driving his jeep eastbound on Leeman Highway in Bath. (Record, Tab 6, Exhibit 1.) Petitioner's friend, Sheldon Curtis ("Curtis"), was in the front passenger seat, and William Gerrish ("Gerrish") was in the backseat. (Record, Tab 6, Exhibit 1.) Petitioner was driving Gerrish to a location on Middle Street in Bath and he was not familiar with the city. (Record, Tab 6, Exhibit 1.) Gerrish was using a cell phone to navigate from the backseat when he yelled to Petitioner that they were about to pass Middle Street by. (Record, Tab 6, Exhibit 1.) Petitioner quickly turned left onto Middle Street across the westbound lane of Leeman Highway without decelerating and without stopping at a posted stop sign. (Record, Tab 6, Exhibit 1.)

         As the Petitioner was turning left onto the street, a truck driven by Brian Trainor ("Trainor") was heading the opposite direction, westbound, on Leeman Highway. Trainor's truck collided with the passenger side of the Petitioner's jeep, and Curtis was ejected from the passenger seat onto the sidewalk. (Record, Tab 6, Exhibit 1.) Curtis did not survive the crash. (Record, Tab 6, Exhibit 1.)

         Bath Police Department officers responded to the scene. (Record, Tab 6, Exhibit 1.) Petitioner told the officers that he did not see the stop sign when he turned left, and did not see Trainor's truck until they collided. (Record, Tab 6, Exhibit 1.) Petitioner admitted fault several times, and iterated that he did not seen the stop sign. (Record, Tab 6, Exhibit 1.) A witness to the crash that was driving behind Trainor's truck saw Petitioner's jeep travel into their lane without slowing down or stopping. (Record, Tab 6, Exhibit 1.) The witness told officers that the Petitioner's jeep was going fast for a left turn and went through the intersection at "a pretty good rate of speed." (Record, Tab 6, Exhibit 1.)

         Bath Police Detective Sergeant Andrew Booth ("Booth") conducted an accident reconstruction investigation. (Record, Tab 7, Exhibit 2.) His report reflected a stop sign in the center island at the left turn lane of Leeman Highway onto Middle Street and that it was visible and in the correct spot. (Record, Tab 7, Exhibit 2.) Booth found that traffic traveling on Leeman Highway has the right of way, and that the cause of the crash was Petitioner's failure to stop at the posted stop sign. (Record, Tab 7, Exhibit 2.) He determined that excessive speed was not a significant factor in the crash. (Record, Tab 7, Exhibit 2.)

         The police reports regarding the crash were sent to the Secretary of State. (Record, Tab 6, Exhibit 1.) Subsequently, on March 23, 2018, the Secretary of State's office sent a notice of suspension and opportunity for hearing to the Petitioner. (Record, Tab 12, Exhibit 7.) The notice informed the Petitioner that his license was administratively suspended for three years because of the fatal crash. (Record, Tab 12, Exhibit 7.)

         On April 13, 2018, the Secretary of State received the Petitioner's request for an administrative hearing. (Record, Tab 12, Exhibit 7.) A testimonial hearing was held on June 26, 2018. (Record, Tab 5, pp. 1-147.) The Petitioner admitted to operating the vehicle at the time of the crash, but denied that his operation had been negligent. (Record, Tab 5, pp. 3-4, 136-46.) At the close of evidence, the HO reserved decision to permit the Petitioner to submit a video of the intersection and written argument, which he submitted on July 11, 2018. (Record, Tab 3; Tab 5, p.146; Tab 24.).

         The HO issued her written decision upholding the Bureau of Motor Vehicles' suspension of the Petitioner's driving license on July 17, 2018. (Record, Tab 3.) The HO relied on Booth's report and testimony at the hearing, specifically found that excessive speed was not a factor in the crash, and that the stop sign was visible and in the correct place. (Record, Tab 3.) The HO did not rely on Curtis's failure to wear a seatbelt in coming to her decision because of 29-A M.RS. § 2081(5).[1] (Record, Tab 3.) The HO found that despite the Petitioner testifying that he did not see the stop sign, "he offered no explanation as to why he travelled directly into a busy intersection without yielding or stopping." (Record, Tab 3.) The HO determined by a preponderance of the evidence that Petitioner's negligent operation of his jeep caused Curtis's death. (Record, Tab 3.)

         On August 10, 2018, the Petitioner filed a motion to reconsider the decision, which was denied on September 20, 2018. (Record, Tab 3.) Petitioner's timely appeal followed.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Judicial review of administrative agency decisions is "deferential and limited." Passadumkeag Mountain Friends v. Bd. of Envtl. Prot,2014 ME 116, ¶ 12, 102 A.3d 1181 (quoting Friends of Lincoln Lakes v. Bd. of Envtl. Prot,2010 ME 18, ¶ 12, 989 A.2d 1128). The court is not permitted to overturn an agency's decision "unless it: violates the Constitution or statutes; exceeds the agency's authority; is procedurally unlawful; is arbitrary or capricious; constitutes an abuse of discretion; is affected by bias or error of law; or is unsupported by the evidence in the record." Kroger v. Dept. of Envtl. Prot., 2005 ME 50, ¶ 7, 870 A.2d 566. The party seeking to ...


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