Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Court

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Hancock Country Deputy Sheriff Christopher Sargent struck a deer with his patrol car while driving over the speed limit without cause. The County Commissioners voted to collect from Sargent the $1000 insurance deductible paid by the County for the damages to the patrol car. County Sheriff William Clark, Sargent, and the Union of which Sargent was a member (collectively, Plaintiffs) subsequently filed a Me. R. Civ. P. 80B appeal seeking judicial review of the Commissioners’ votes and seeking a declaration that the Commissioners exceeded their authority in requiring Sargent to pay the $1000 deductible. The Commissioners subsequently rescinded the votes seeking to collect the insurance deductible from Sargent. Thereafter, Plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment, and the Commissioners field a cross-motion for summary judgment. The superior court entered summary judgment in favor of the Commissioners, concluding that Plaintiffs’ Rule 80B appeal was moot and the request for a declaratory judgment was unripe. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Rule 80B appeal was moot and none of the recognized exceptions to the mootness doctrine applied in this case; and (2) Plaintiffs’ request for a declaratory judgment was unripe for judicial review because no genuine controversy existed. View "Clark v. Hancock County Comm'rs" on Justia Law

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Vescom Corporation provided security services for a mill. Richard Hickson worked for Vescom at the mill. After then-Governor John Baldacci and his party visited the mill without wearing the proper footwear, Hickson sent the Governor an email expressing his concerns about the safety issues he noticed. Upon learning about the email, Vescom terminated Hickson’s employment. Hickson filed a complaint against Vescom. After a jury trial, the superior court found that Vescom had violated the Whistleblowers’ Protection Act by terminating Hickson’s employment. On appeal, Vescom argued that Hickson failed to make a protected whistleblower’s report because the conduct he reported was not undertaken by his employer, Vescom. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, in the context of this case, Hickson’s report fell directly under the Whistleblowers’ Protection Act. View "Hickson v. Vescom Corp." on Justia Law

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Kennebec County participated in the Maine Public Employees Retirement System (MPERS), and at all times relevant to this appeal, eligible County employees had the option of joining MPERS. Some County employees were not informed about their eligibility to join the retirement system, which resulted in a hearing before the MPERS’s Board of Trustees. The Board implicitly or explicitly concluded that (1) MPERS had authority to adjudicate claims that some County employees were inadequately advised of their option to join MPERS at the time the employees were initially hired; (2) at the initial hiring of each employee, the County was obligated to adequately inform its employees of their eligibility to participate in the MPERS retirement plan; and (3) the County failed to meet that obligation with respect to certain employees. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that MPERS and the Board lacked statutory authority to decide disputes relating to information about opportunities to join MPERS. Remanded. View "Kennebec County v. Me. Pub. Employees Ret. Sys." on Justia Law

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Since 2001, Callaghan has worked part-time at the South Portland Library. Edwards works for the Parks and Recreation Department about four hours per week. Both are subject to a personnel policy, which, following 2010-2011 amendments, provides that city employees may not seek or accept nomination or election to any South Portland elective office; use the influence of their employment for or against any candidate for city elective office; circulate petitions or campaign literature for any city elective office; solicit or receive subscriptions, contributions or political service from any person for or against any candidate for any city elective office; or use city property to assist or advocate for or against any candidate. Callaghan has served on the School Board since 2007. When Callaghan sought reelection in 2011, the City Clerk stated that the personnel policy amendments prevented placement of her name on the ballot. Edwards had served on the Board for 18 years. In 2010, Edwards expressed interest in filling a vacancy on the Board. After the City Clerk questioned whether Edwards could be appointed given his city employment, Edwards did not pursue the appointment. Edwards and Callaghan filed a complaint, 42 U.S.C. 1983, asserting that the policy was an unconstitutional restraint on political speech. The trial court entered partial summary judgment for the employees and an injunction barring enforcement of a prohibition on any city employee seeking election to or serving on the School Board or, on their own time, from circulating petitions or campaign literature and soliciting or receiving contributions or political service for or against candidates in School Board elections. The Maine Supreme Court affirmed as to the employees, but vacated the judgment to the extent that it invalidates the policy as to employees who were not parties. View "Callaghan v. City of South Portland" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was a general construction company. In 2010, the Maine Department of Labor Bureau of Unemployment Compensation conducted a random audit of Plaintiff's business to verify that twenty-four individuals that worked for Plaintiff were independent contractors. The Bureau determined the individuals were employees of Plaintiff and thus assessed Plaintiff unpaid unemployment tax liability for each of these individuals. The Unemployment Insurance Commission affirmed the Bureau's determination as to twenty-two of the individuals - salespeople, a bookkeeper, and skilled workers employed as subcontractors. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the Commission's decision as to the bookkeeper and the salespeople; but (2) vacated the Commission's judgment with regard to eighteen of the subcontractors, holding that Plaintiff met its burden of demonstrating that the subcontractors met all three criteria listed in 26 Me. Rev. Stat. 1043(11)(E)(1) to (3). Remanded. View "Sinclair Builders, Inc. v. Unemployment Ins. Comm'n" on Justia Law

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The Maine Labor Relations Board determined that firefighters for the City of Augusta who retired after the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement between the City and the firefighters union were entitled to retiree health insurance benefits under the expired agreement's terms. The Board based its decision upon its determination that the retirement benefits were part of the static status quo that must be maintained during continuing negotiations. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Board did not err in concluding that the City must continue to pay the retirees retiree health insurance benefits during negotiations in order to maintain the static status quo. View "City of Augusta v. Me. Labor Relations Bd." on Justia Law

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While working at Devereux Marine, Employee was electrocuted when the mast he was lowering came into contact with an overhead high-voltage power line owned by Central Maine Power Company (CMP). Employee received workers' compensation benefits through Devereux and separately sued CMP for negligence. The court awarded Employee $4,890,631 in damages. After paying the judgment, CMP brought this claim for indemnification against Devereux. Accompanying CMP's complaint was a motion for ex parte real estate attachment. The business and consumer docket denied CMP's motion for attachment, interpreting the Maine Overhead High-voltage Line Safety Act as creating a statutory right of contribution as opposed to a right to indemnification. The Supreme Court vacated the denial of the motion to attach, holding that full indemnification from an employer is required when (1) an employee is injured after bringing materials into contact with an overhead high-voltage power line; (2) the employer is determined to have violated the Act; and (3) the owner of the high-voltage line becomes liable to the employee. Remanded. View "Cent. Me. Power Co. v. Devereux Marine, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was employed by a Hospital for nineteen years. In 2009, Plaintiff was deposed in connection with a wrongful death lawsuit against the Hospital. The day after Plaintiff signed her deposition transcript, the Hospital terminated Plaintiff's employment on the ground that a medical record entry Plaintiff described in her deposition constituted a falsification of a patient medical record. Plaintiff filed a complaint against the Hospital, alleging that it violated Me. Rev. Stat. 26, 833(1)(C) because it discharged her in retaliation for her deposition testimony in the wrongful death lawsuit against the Hospital. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of Hospital. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that Plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether her deposition was a substantial factor motivating her dismissal. View "Trott v. H.D. Goodall Hosp." on Justia Law

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Employee suffered an injury to his left hand while working for Employer. Later, Employee's left index finger had to be amputated. Employee subsequently filed a petition for specific loss benefits. The parties agreed Employee was entitled to specific loss benefits because of the amputation for a period of thirty-eight weeks. At issue was whether Employer was entitled to an offset for the incapacity benefits it paid before the amputation. The Workers' Compensation Board granted the petition for specific loss benefits and determined that Employer was allowed to offset the incapacity benefits paid before the amputation. The Supreme Court vacated the Board's decision, holding that Employer was not entitled to offset the incapacity benefits paid during the months after Employee's initial injury but before the amputation of his finger. View "Scott v. Fraser Papers, Inc. " on Justia Law

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Decedent, an employee of the Salvation Army, died at his home, part of which served as his office. Decedent's spouse filed a petition for death benefits with the Workers' Compensation Board (Board), which issued an award in favor of the Estate. The Salvation Army filed notices of appeal with the Supreme Court and with the Workers' Compensation Board Appellate Division. At issue before the Court was whether the appeal was properly before the Appellate Division or the Court. The Supreme Court dismissed the Salvation Army's petition, holding (1) for all workers' compensation cases without final decision before September 1, 2012, the initial review must go to the Appellate Division; and (2) because the Board declined review on or after September 1, 2012, the appeal from the hearing officer's final decision was not properly before the Supreme Court. View "Estate of Sullwold v. Salvation Army" on Justia Law