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Gladstone v. Gladstone

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

August 6, 2019

HILDA GLADSTONE, Plaintiff
v.
MATTHEW GLADSTONE, Defendant

          ORDER

          THOMAS D. WARREN JUSTICE

         In this action plaintiff Hilda Gladstone (Hilda) is suing her son Matthew Gladstone (Matthew] because of numerous disputes between them over real property at 111 Mountfort Road in North Yarmouth.

         The parties agree that the property originally belonged to Hilda's late husband Lionel, who died in 2012, bequeathing a life estate to Hilda and the remainder interest tn Matthew. Hilda specifically argues that she was unlawfully ousted from the property by Matthew in November 2015 and that when she regained access to the property in November 2017, Matthew spitefully left die property in a damaged condition. Hilda seeks damages under various theories and also alleges that because she repurchased the property in 2018 after the Town of North Yarmouth had foreclosed on unpaid tax liens, she now owns the property in fee simple.

         A jury-waived trial was held on February 27 and March 21, 2019, and the parties subsequently filed post-trial briefs.

         Having heard the evidence and having evaluated the credibility of the testimony presented, the court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:

Plaintiff-Thaddeus Day, Esq.
Defendant-David Lourie, Esq.

         1. Lionel Gladstone died in 2012. In his will he left a life estate in the real property at 111 Mountfort Road, North Yarmouth, to his wife Hilda and the remainder interest in that property to Hilda's son Matthew, whom he had adopted after he married Hilda.

         2. The premises in question consisted of the lot, a residence that include an addition built by Lionel, and two garages - one of which was a four-bay garage that the parties referred to as the Bonanza garage.

         3. After Lionel's death Matthew was living with his mother, but their relationship eventually deteriorated into open hostility, particularly after Matthew began a relationship with Christina York in late 2014 or early 2015, Sometime in approximately February 2015, Matthew began spending nights with Ms. York at her family's house but was occupying the garages at 111 Mountfort Road to conduct a business of repairing cars.

         4. There were several areas of friction between Hilda and Matthew. One was that Hilda felt that Matthew was neglecting her.

         5. Another was financial. During this time period Hilda was falling behind on paying the real estate taxes. Although those were her responsibility as the life tenant, [1] Matthew was using the property to conduct his business. Asked to contribute to the property taxes, he made only a small payment in June 2015.[2] He declined to pay more and also did not offer any meaningful help with Hilda's other expenses [heating oil and utilities].

         6. The friction intensified because Matthew acted as if he had an absolute right to use the garages and the premises at 111 Mountfort Road [other than the residence], coming and going as he pleased, notwithstanding Hilda's life estate.

         7. As the friction continued, Matthew became verbally abusive to Hilda, telling her on one occasion, "If you don't like it, get the fuck out" and making similar statements on other occasions. This was substantiated by the testimony of Tammy Russell.

         8. Hilda sought the assistance of law enforcement to have Matthew barred from the premises, but the law enforcement officers who came to the residence apparently concluded that Matthew had an equal claim to the property. Because Hilda cannot read and is not articulate, she was at a significant disadvantage in attempting to assert her rights, 9. On at least one occasion Matthew pushed Hilda against a wall. Hilda was reluctant to tell anyone about this incident "because he was my son."

         10. Afraid of what Matthew might do, Hilda decided to leave the property early in November 2015. When Matthew realized she had left and was making several trips to move out, he felled a tree across the driveway and would not even let her return to retrieve certain of her belongings, stating that she ...


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