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Berry v. MaineStream Finance

Supreme Court of Maine

February 21, 2019


          Submitted On Briefs: November 28, 2018

          Aaron Fethke, Esq., Fethke Law Offices, Searsport, for appellant Jacob Berry

          Ryan P. Dumais, Esq., Eaton Peabody, Brunswick, for appellee MaineStream Finance


          HJELM, J.

         [¶1] This case involves the fate of a race car that may-or may not-be the one called "Outlaw." Jacob Berry appeals from a summary judgment entered in the District Court (Belfast, Worth, J.) in favor of MaineStream Finance on Berry's complaint seeking the return of a 2016 Chevrolet Camaro. The court based the judgment on the implicit conclusion that Berry's claim is barred by the res judicata effect of a judgment in a 2016 action between MaineStream and Berry's uncle, Dwight M. Moody, Jr., in which the court determined that Outlaw was owned by Moody and not Berry. Because, however, the summary judgment record does not establish that Outlaw is the same vehicle as the one that is at issue here, we vacate the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The following facts are taken from MaineStream's statement of material facts, which we view in the light most favorable to Berry as the nonprevailing party and which, in any event, are undisputed because Berry admitted each of MaineStream's factual statements and presented none of his own. See M.R. Civ. P. 56(h); Avis Rent a Car Sys., LLC v. Burrill, 2018 ME 81, ¶ 2, 187 A.3d 583.

         [¶3] In 2016, MaineStream filed an action against Moody to repossess two race cars that Moody had pledged as collateral in a security agreement.[1]Prior to the hearing on the complaint, MaineStream seized one of the race cars-"Outlaw"-from Moody's property. At the hearing, Moody disputed MaineStream's claim that it was entitled to repossess Outlaw because, Moody contended, it was not one of the two vehicles pledged in the security agreement and because the car was actually owned by Berry. Berry was not a party to the action but testified at the hearing that he owned the car in MaineStream's possession and that it never belonged to Moody. After hearing the evidence, the court found that Moody was the owner of Outlaw and entered a final judgment. MaineStream's Rule 56(h) submission filed in this case does not contain any assertion that identifies the party for whom judgment was entered or the nature of any relief granted, and the record on summary judgment does not provide any identifying or descriptive information about Outlaw other than its name.

         [¶4] In March of 2017, Berry brought the present action against MaineStream to recover personal property. See 14 M.R.S. § 7071(1) (2018). In his complaint, Berry alleged that MaineStream, in attempting to enforce its security agreement with Moody, had seized a 2016 Chevrolet Camaro that Berry owns but that the seizure was wrongful because MaineStream "misidentified [Berry's] vehicle and took possession of his vehicle in error." Berry went on to allege that the two vehicles in which Moody granted MaineStream a security interest were 2012 and 2013 Chevrolet Impalas.

         [¶5] In January of 2018, MaineStream filed a motion for summary judgment based on an assertion that, in the 2016 action, the court determined that Moody owns the car and that, pursuant to the doctrine of res judicata, Berry is barred from seeking relief here. The court granted MaineStream's motion in a very brief order that stated only that the motion was granted and that judgment was entered against Berry. Berry filed a timely appeal to us. See 14 M.R.S. § 1901 (2018); M.R. App. P. 2B(c)(1).


         [¶6] We review a grant of summary judgment de novo "and consider both the evidence and any reasonable inferences that the evidence produces in the light most favorable to the party against whom the summary judgment has been granted." Canney v. Strathglass Holdings, LLC, 2017 ME 64, ¶ 10, 159 A.3d 330 (quotation marks omitted). Summary judgment is appropriate only "when the parties' statements of material facts and the portions of the record referred to therein disclose no genuine issues of material fact and reveal that one party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Id.; see M.R. Civ. P. 56(c).

         [¶7] As a central tenet of summary judgment motion practice, "[f]acts not set forth in the statement of material facts are not in the summary judgment record, even if the fact in question can be gleaned from affidavits or other documents attached to, and even referred to in portions of, a statement of material fact." HSBC Bank USA, N.A. v. ...

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