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Harvey v Dow

Case No. Pen-10-88 (ME S.Ct., Jan. 6, 2011)

Teresa L. Harvey appeals from a judgment of the Superior Court (Penobscot County, Hjelm, J.), entered after our decision in Harvey v. Dow (Harvey I), 2008 ME 192, 962 A.2d 322, in which we vacated the court’s original judgment and remanded for further proceedings. As she did in Harvey I, Teresa assigns error to the court’s ruling on the promissory estoppel count of her complaint against Jeffrey B. Dow Sr. and Kathryn L. Dow. We again vacate the judgment and remand to the Superior Court for entry of a judgment in favor of Teresa and for further proceedings to determine an appropriate remedy.

I. BACKGROUND

The outcome of this appeal is largely a product of our previous decision in this case. Thus, of necessity, we retrace our steps. In Harvey I, we set forth the relevant factual and procedural history, as it existed to that point, as follows:
Jeffrey Dow Sr. and Kathryn Dow are the parents of Teresa Harvey. The Dows own 125 acres of land in Corinth in two adjoining parcels, one fifty acres and the other seventy-five acres. They, their daughter Teresa, and their son Jeffrey Dow Jr. each have homes on the property. From the time they were young, Teresa and her brother talked about the houses they would eventually like to build on the homestead; Teresa said she wanted her home to be located near a spring, close to where it now sits. For their part, the Dows saw the land as their children’s heritage that would be left to them or given to them when they were older. Jeffrey Sr. testified that when the children were teenagers, he believed that his wife had promised them some land in the future, and the subject of the children living on the homestead was commonly discussed within the family.
The Superior Court found that the Dows had a general, non-specific plan to transfer land to the children at some undetermined time. In the court’s words, the “evidence at most reveals that Jeffrey Sr. expressed an intention to enter into an agreement to convey property sometime in the future,” and “Kathryn had made it clear that eventually, both Teresa and Jeffrey Jr. would end up with all or part of the two parcels.”
In 1999, Teresa and her future husband, Jarrod Harvey, installed a mobile home on her parents’ land with their permission at the location where her brother’s mobile home is now located. She did not pay rent and did not ask her parents for a deed. Later, she and Jarrod built a garage near the mobile home, again with the Dows’ permission.
Around January 2003, Teresa and Jarrod, by then married, decided to build a house on the lot where their mobile home then stood. At the Harveys’ request, the Dows agreed to use their home equity line of credit to initially finance the house. At trial, Teresa testified that part of the plan for repaying her parents included having them convey the building site to her by deed once the house was completed. Jeffrey Sr. denied any discussion of a deed at that time. In March 2003, Jarrod Harvey died in a motorcycle accident. Following his death, Teresa decided to finance the house with life insurance proceeds rather than use her parents’ home equity line.

 

 

Judge(s): Joseph M. Jabar
Jurisdiction: Maine Supreme Court
Supreme Court Judge(s)
Donald Alexander
Ellen Gorman
Joseph Jabar
Jon Levy
Andrew Mead
Leigh Saufley
Warren Silver

 
Appellant Lawyer(s) Appellant Law Firm(s)
Paul Weeks Paul Weeks Attorney PA

 
Appellee Lawyer(s) Appellee Law Firm(s)
Edmond Bearor Rudman & Winchell LLC
John Hamer Rudman & Winchell LLC

 

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Click the maroon box above for a formatted PDF of the decision.
unique procedural circumstances, we offer the following guidance. jeffrey b. dow sr. et al. remained unclear (1) when they intended to convey the land, and (2) how much teresa and for further proceedings to determine an appropriate remedy. restatement (second) of contracts 90 cmt. d (citations omitted). in fashioning a teresa would be entitled to receive the property. in our view, however, the dows' end up with all or part of the two parcels." see, e.g., harvey i, 2008 me 192, 20, 962 a.2d at 327 (stating that teresa's reliance "would seem 10 follows: reveals that jeffrey sr. expressed an intention to enter into an building permit for it, and then buil[t] a substantial part of it himself." harvey i, [11] although we direct the court to enter a judgment in favor of teresa, [6] after entry of the judgment, teresa filed a motion for findings of fact the promisor than performance would have imposed. judgment and remand to the superior court for entry of a judgment in favor of [8] before explaining why we find error in the court's conclusion, an 1 rejected it, finding that "[the dows'] statements were not promises parcels, one fifty acres and the other seventy-five acres. they, their rudman & winchell, llc for a declaratory judgment. based on her assertion that the court the property. from the time they were young, teresa and her brother 8 i. background absence of an explicitly articulated promise, nor the absence of than the distribution of the assets of the estate of jeffrey dow, sr. or katherine [3] on appeal in harvey i, we addressed teresa's contention that the court assigns error to the court's ruling on the promissory estoppel count of her specified size, or with any defined boundaries, at any time certain." id. 12, award consequential damages which would place a greater burden on particular, relief may sometimes be limited to restitution or to provides: that the dows had not made "an express promise to convey a parcel of land of any statements or conduct representing a remedy. had made it clear that eventually, both teresa and jeffrey jr. would paying the property taxes or any rent. both kathryn dow and jeffrey and remand for entry of a judgment in favor of teresa. paul weeks attorney pa of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraud. the dows had addressed those important points. id. 13, 962 a.2d at 326. 7 2008 me 192, 2-9, 962 a.2d at 323-25. (recognizing "the trial court's particular expertise in fact finding and its proper neither the original judgment nor the order on teresa's m.r. civ. p. 52 motion unless the record permits only one resolution of the factual issue."). fact. see smith v. hawthorne, 2002 me 149, 15, 804 a.2d 1133, 1138 principles of promissory estoppel we set forth in harvey i. "we review the court's trial that she did not ask her father for one directly because she did not always wanted her house to be. jeffrey sr. agreed that she could build [5] following our remand, the court again found against teresa on the for clerk reference only stood. at the harveys' request, the dows agreed to use their home jabar, j. and helped to get underground electrical lines installed. . . . homestead; teresa said she wanted her home to be located near a teresa l. harvey enrichment of the promisor, damages should not put the promisee in a promissory estoppel, we summarized our opinion thusly: some land in the future, and the subject of the children living on the enforced. the superior court found that the dows had a general, factual findings for clear error, and its legal conclusion that those facts do not make not pay rent and did not ask her parents for a deed. later, she and argued: october 6, 2010 complaint against jeffrey b. dow sr. and kathryn l. dow. we again vacate the [10] consistent with our decision in harvey i, we hold that the court erred talked about the houses they would eventually like to build on the po box 1401 harvey received an offer or promise that can be enforced in this 3 eric mills holmes, corbin on contracts 8.9, at 29 (1996). here, by actively [12] "`a promise binding under [promissory estoppel] is a contract, and in favor of teresa. these differing mandates can be understood in light of our paul a. weeks, esq. (orally) (emphasis added)). dows to convey that specific site could be fairly implied. neither the we cannot, at this juncture, opine on an appropriate remedy. because "[t]he promissory estoppel is established on these facts. kathryn l. dow: dows' general promise to give her land at some time, when coupled damages or specific relief measured by the extent of the promisee's need it then. . . . a permit was eventually issued to jeffrey sr. for him attorneys for jeffrey b. dow, sr., and homestead was commonly discussed within the family. [t]he same factors which bear on whether any relief should be convey the property to teresa or forgo any challenge to teresa's ownership or use conveyance of that property. after making general promises to convey land to 6 at some point after moving into her new house, teresa began 2 84 harlow street that the dows were not going to execute a deed. at the time of trial, reliance," and concluding that "the plaintiffs have not established that assessment of damages is within the sole province of the factfinder," down based on the facts reported in harvey i, it concluded that the dows' actions and judgment as to count one of the complaint and testified that part of the plan for repaying her parents included having in march 2003, jarrod harvey died in a motorcycle accident. teresa's construction of a house upon the property and the application of section and conclusions of law. see m.r. civ. p. 52. the court denied the motion, 11 decided to build a house on the lot where their mobile home then important procedural issue warrants attention. whereas in harvey i we remanded judgment on remand, the court concluded that any implied promise by the dows attorney for teresa l. harvey: action." in 1999, teresa and her future husband, jarrod harvey, the matter for further proceedings, today we instruct the court to enter a judgment insurance proceeds rather than use her parents' home equity line. of it. id. sits. the court further concluded that any "assumptions that [teresa] made about acquiescence, support, and encouragement of teresa's construction of a house on a estoppel. we review this legal conclusion de novo. see id.; daigle commercial for entry of a judgment in favor of teresa on those judgment on her promissory estoppel claim. accordingly, we vacate the judgment with their affirmative actions in allowing her to build a substantial remand to the superior court to take up the issue. nevertheless, mindful of the counts and for further proceedings to determine a in the case of a promise to make a gift it would rarely be proper to [o]n the facts found by the superior court, teresa's reliance on the the entry is: house on a particular piece of their land, would seem to be eminently intended to reflect the possibility of further factual development on remand.2 error in the court's apparent failure to consider the relevance of the dows' actions addressing the relief available on a claim of promissory estoppel, the restatement b. remedy 4 3 property is undetermined, except that the conveyance would have to occur no later 2 20, 962 a.2d 322, 328. count one of the counterclaim vacated. remanded parcel of their land conclusively demonstrate their intention to make a present their generalized statements, in determining whether the existence of a sought specific performance to compel the dows to convey to her the land on notwithstanding obvious interests in promoting judicial economy and minimizing completed. jeffrey sr. denied any discussion of a deed at that time. judgment and remanded for further proceedings. as she did in harvey i, teresa infirm because of an erroneous view of the law, a remand is the proper course erred in failing to consider the dows' actions, in conjunction with and was completed in may 2004 at a cost to teresa of about institutional role" (quotation marks omitted)). because, in harvey i, we identified consideration is a bar to enforcing that promise. the superior court 82 columbia street forth the relevant factual and procedural history, as it existed to that point, as installed a mobile home on her parents' land with their permission at those expectations of location and time" were not reasonable. although it clarifying that "the date when [teresa] will be entitled to acquire a parcel of second component: "the dows' acquiescence, support, and encouragement of (penobscot county, hjelm, j.), entered after our decision in harvey v. dow house was built; jeffrey sr. said there was no discussion about a deed. dow, whoever survives longer." teresa then filed this appeal. out a claim of promissory estoppel de novo." harvey i, 2008 me 192, 10, 90 of the restatement of contracts to those facts." id. 13, 962 a.2d at 325-26. general statements, taken together, did not amount to a sufficiently specific and house, teresa, her father, and her grandfather determined that it would acknowledged that the dows were "subject to a limited enforceable obligation to equity line of credit to initially finance the house. at trial, teresa agreement to convey property sometime in the future," and "kathryn in evaluating teresa's claim of promissory estoppel, we thought it prudent to allow perform sometime in the future," the court found that relief for teresa was children were teenagers, he believed that his wife had promised them spring, close to where it now sits. for their part, the dows saw the e. energy corp. v. rmr, inc., 1997 me 148, 7, 697 a.2d 417, 420, we must convey unspecified real property to her, or for damages on her claims [7] in this appeal, teresa argues that the court erred in applying the grp., inc. v. st. laurent, 1999 me 107, 13, 734 a.2d 667, 672. promisee's reliance on such statements is reasonable. in that case, promissory estoppel, teresa filed motions for further findings, to 962 a.2d at 325. we explained, however, that the evidence also included a vital remedy, the court may look to this provision for direction. see stone v. waldoboro around january 2003, teresa and jarrod, by then married, land as their children's heritage that would be left to them or given to court recognized that teresa's argument was properly raised and then to be eminently foreseeable and reasonable," and that a promise by the dows "could be fairly implied" [4] after discussing the significance of this evidence in the context of was too indefinite to be enforceable, particularly with respect to the time when ii. discussion docket: pen-10-88 maine supreme judicial court reporter of decisions of promissory estoppel as set forth in section 90 of the restatement (second) of reasoned that the dows' conduct failed to create an enforceable promise because it commitment to do or refrain from doing something in the future"--namely, to the location where her brother's mobile home is now located. she did a. promissory estoppel 962 a.2d at 325. on remand, the court made no new factual findings; instead, harvey. the dows own 125 acres of land in corinth in two adjoining permission. better position than performance of the promise would have put him. edmond j. bearor, esq. (orally) teresa was paying the taxes on the house itself, but she was not to build another house on his property. teresa testified that her father matter to the court "for consideration of the issues identified herein."1 jarrod built a garage near the mobile home, again with the dows' granted also bear on the character and the extent of the remedy. in bangor, maine 04402-1401 told her he would execute a deed to her for the property after the jeffrey sr. went to obtain a building permit from the town. there was failed to address whether she was entitled to a judgment on a theory of supporting teresa's construction of the house, the dows demonstrated a "present restatement (second) of contracts 90 cmt. d (1981)). in her complaint, teresa rights in their property. following a two-day bench trial, the court decision: 2011 me 4 doing so, we recognized that ample record evidence supported the court's finding future reasonably can be expected to induce reliance and the agreeing to deed any land to teresa. issue of promissory estoppel. basing its decision on the existing record, the court 5 found for the dows on the real property claims and on their request them convey the building site to her by deed once the house was amend the judgment, and for a new trial. in a written decision, the them when they were older. jeffrey sr. testified that when the proper analysis. nonetheless, we disagree with the court's legal conclusion. in its we affirmed the court's judgment in all other respects. harvey v. dow (harvey i), 2008 me 192, reliance rather than by the terms of the promise. unless there is unjust full-scale enforcement by normal remedies is often appropriate.'" daigle in march 2006, teresa filed a seven-count complaint in the decision in this case. thus, of necessity, we retrace our steps. in harvey i, we set bangor, maine 04404-6357 commercial grp., inc., 1999 me 107, 23, 734 a.2d at 674-75 (quoting to ask jeffrey sr. for a deed so that she could obtain a mortgage to non-specific plan to transfer land to the children at some [9] given our explanation of the applicable promissory estoppel principles unavailable because the "issue presented here is whether the [dows] are subject to teresa, jeffrey dow sr. "approv[ed] the site of teresa's house, obtain[ed] a undetermined time. in the court's words, the "evidence at most foreseeable and reasonable. from those actions, a promise by the [2] the outcome of this appeal is largely a product of our previous 2008 me 192, 18, 962 a.2d at 327. as one leading authority has observed, jj. when it came time to do site preparation work for the new in concluding, based on its factual findings, that teresa was not entitled to a erred in analyzing her claim of promissory estoppel. id. 10, 962 a.2d at 325. in land they intended to convey, beyond the particular parcel on which the house now there is a promissory commitment or assurance which can be that could be enforced even if they were the subject of detrimental which she built the house, or for damages based on the value of the house. counterclaimed, seeking a judgment declaring that teresa had no jeffrey dow sr. and kathryn dow are the parents of teresa no discussion of teresa obtaining a deed at that point; she testified at superior court, primarily seeking a judgment compelling the dows to in harvey i, we are now assured that the court found all of the facts relevant to a [1] teresa l. harvey appeals from a judgment of the superior court finance other projects. after a period of discussion, it became clear the house at its current site. before construction began, teresa and decided: january 6, 2011 contracts."). $200,000. jeffrey sr. did a substantial amount of the construction litigation expenses, we sought to avoid intruding on the trial court's role as john k. hamer, esq. following his death, teresa decided to finance the house with life the court an opportunity to make new or additional factual findings. construction of the new house began in the summer of 2003 limited appellate role. it is not our place, as an appellate court, to make findings of daughter teresa, and their son jeffrey dow jr. each have homes on present commitment to do or refrain from doing something in the himself, including much of the foundation work, and the carpentry, id. 9 bank, 559 a.2d 781, 782 (me. 1989) ("we have previously approved the doctrine a present legal obligation to convey land." cf. pullman-standard v. swint, 456 u.s. 273, 292 (1982) ("[w]here findings are (harvey i), 2008 me 192, 962 a.2d 322, in which we vacated the court's original unambiguous promise capable of current enforcement through promissory id. 20, 962 a.2d at 327. we therefore vacated the judgment and remanded the penobscot county superior court docket number cv-2006-46 fact-finder. for this reason, our opinion in harvey i was couched in language panel: saufley, c.j., and alexander, levy, silver, mead, gorman, and jabar, jr. testified that they had no knowledge of jeffrey sr. ever offering or cost no more to build further back on the property where teresa had v.


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