MSR RECYCLING, LLC, et al.
WEEKS & HUTCHINS, LLC, et al.
Argued: June 13, 2019
Phillip E. Johnson, Esq. (orally), Johnson, Webbert &
Young, LLP, Augusta, for appellants MSR Recycling, LLC, et
S. Whitman, Esq., and Heidi J. Eddy, Esq. (orally),
Richardson, Whitman, Large & Badger, Portland, for
appellees Weeks & Hutchins, LLC, et al.
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and
MSR Recycling, LLC; Fred Black Properties, LLC; and Fred
Black (collectively, MSR) appeal from a summary judgment
entered by the Superior Court (Kennebec County, Stokes,
J.) in favor of Attorney Matthew Clark and Weeks &
Hutchins, LLC (collectively, Clark) on MSR's complaint
alleging attorney malpractice. The court concluded that MSR
failed to present evidence of causation to proceed with its
legal malpractice claim against Clark. We vacate the
In January 2012, MSR submitted an application for site plan
review to the Town of Madison Code Enforcement Officer for
approval of a commercial facility that was to receive motor
vehicles and appliances such as stoves and refrigerators for
transport to MSR's recycling facility in Winslow. The
Town's Planning Board held several public hearings and
meetings on MSR's application for site plan approval
during which the Board received evidence concerning the
facility's satisfaction of the Town's Site Review
Ordinance requirements. The Board approved the application on
October 15, 2012.
Abutters to the site appealed the decision of the Planning
Board to the Town's Board of Appeals (BOA), and MSR hired
Clark to represent it before the BOA. The BOA met on December
6, 2012, for the purpose of hearing the appeal. Three members
of the BOA believed that the Planning Board had not properly
characterized the business to be conducted at the site and
that the facility was going to be an automobile and metal
recycling facility. The BOA voted 3-2 to reverse the decision
of the Planning Board. MSR, represented by Clark, appealed
the BOA's reversal to the Superior Court pursuant to M.R.
Civ. P. 8OB; however, Clark failed to file a brief, resulting
in dismissal of the appeal.
Claim Against Clark
On February 6, 2017, MSR, represented by new counsel, filed a
complaint in the Superior Court alleging that it suffered
harm due to Clark's negligence. Clark filed a motion for
summary judgment on January 18, 2018, arguing that MSR could
not show that Clark's breach of duty was the proximate
cause of MSR's alleged harm because the operative
decision to be reviewed was the BOA decision, and there was a
sufficient basis for the BOA to conclude that the proposed
use of the property was as an automobile graveyard or
junkyard. Thus, according to Clark, MSR could not show that a
different and better result would have occurred absent
Clark's negligence, thereby entitling Clark to summary
judgment on MSR's complaint.
On November 9, 2018, the court granted Clark's motion for
summary judgment. It concluded that, regardless of the
operative decision to be reviewed on appeal, the reviewing
court would have held that MSR's proposed operation
amounted to a junkyard as a matter of state law, and
therefore MSR could not show either that the Planning
Board's decision would have been upheld ...