FIRST FINANCIAL, INC.
PETER E. MORRISON et al.
Argued: May 15, 2019
F. Lambert, Jr., Esq. (orally), Lambert Coffin, Portland, for
appellant Fist Financial, Inc.
Bridget McMahon, Esq. (orally), Legal Services for the
Elderly, Scarborough, for appellees Peter and Judith Morrison
ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.
First Financial, Inc., appeals from a judgment of the
District Court (Biddeford, Cantara, J.) denying its
motion for relief from judgment after the court denied its
motion to dismiss its foreclosure complaint without prejudice
and granted Peter E. and Judith B. Morrison's motion for
judgment on the pleadings. First Financial argues, among
other things, that it was an abuse of discretion for the
court to deny its motion for relief because the clerk's
office failed to notify it of the entry of the earlier orders
before the time to take an appeal from those orders expired.
For the reasons discussed below, we affirm the judgment.
In September 2017, First Financial filed a foreclosure
complaint in the District Court in Biddeford alleging that
Peter and Judith Morrison had defaulted on a note held by
First Financial and secured by the Morrisons' real
property in Biddeford. The Morrisons filed an answer on the
court-approved answer form in which they denied "at
least some of [First Financial's statements in the
foreclosure complaint," asserted all applicable
affirmative defenses, and requested mediation.
The case was temporarily transferred to the District Court in
Springvale for the Foreclosure Diversion Program. The
notification of the temporary transfer-signed by a deputy
clerk-stated: "All further filings shall be sent to the
SPRINGVALE DISTRICT COURT." The parties subsequently
participated in two mediation sessions, but were unable to
reach a resolution. At the end of the second mediation
session, the parties agreed that the mediation report would
become final and the case would be returned to the
foreclosure docket if neither party requested another
mediation session by April 2, 2018.
Neither party requested further mediation, and, on April 9,
2018, the Morrisons filed a motion for judgment on the
pleadings in the District Court in Biddeford. See
M.R. Civ. P. 12(c). In that motion, they asserted that First
Financial's notice of default and the right to cure did
not comply with the requirements of 14 M.R.S. § 6111
On May 2, 2018, First Financial filed a motion to dismiss its
foreclosure complaint without prejudice, also in the District
Court in Biddeford. The court signed an order granting the
Morrisons' motion for judgment on May 4, 2018, but
despite a clerk-created "stamp" that indicated that
the order had been docketed and copies provided to counsel by
mail on May 7, 2018, the order was not docketed
until May 18, 2018. In the meantime, First Financial filed a
response in opposition to the Morrisons' motion for
judgment on May 8, 2018, in the District Court in Biddeford.
In its response, First Financial admitted the defect in its
notice of the right to cure, but urged the court to grant its
motion for dismissal without prejudice.
Although the docket record and date stamp suggest that First
Financial's response was untimely, see M.R. Civ.
P. 7(c)(2) (dictating that any opposition to a motion must be
filed no later than twenty-one days after the filing of the
motion), the record also contains an email from a clerk at
the District Court in Springvale informing the judge that the
response and the motion to dismiss "were filed prior to
the expiration of the response period, however, the
Springvale office did not know they were filed because they
were filed in Biddeford."
The Morrisons filed a response to First Financial's
motion to dismiss on May 14, 2018, and asserted that there
were no pending claims to dismiss because the court's
order granting their motion for judgment-which still had not
been docketed at that point-disposed of First Financial's
complaint entirely. The court summarily denied First
Financial's motion to dismiss. That order, and the order
granting the Morrisons' motion for judgment were both
docketed on May 18, 2018.
On July 11, 2018, First Financial filed in the District Court
in Biddeford a motion for relief from judgment pursuant to
M.R. Civ. P. 60(a) and (b) along with an ...