SJC decisions re agency, contract, and notice of appeal


The SJC issued two decisions today of some general interest:  

(1) Timothy P. Fitzgerald v. Christopher Hutchins; 2009 ME 115

and (2) George Morrill v. Maine Turnpike Authority; 2009 ME 116

Fitzgerald is the decision with the most meat.  The plaintiff appealed from a summary judgment entered by the Superior Court (Penobscot County, Anderson, J.) in favor of the defendant on a  complaint for breach of contract, quantum meruit, and unjust enrichment in connection with the sale of a power plant.  Without going in to the details, this decision has instructive material on when someone acting as a disclosed agent can still be liable on a contract he enters into individually.  The decision also rejects summary judgment based on the vagueness of that alleged contract, which was oral, in which the defendant basically said if you help me sell the plant, I'll give you a commission, without identifying terms like the amount of the commission.  The court ruled (Jabar, J.) that a term like compensation can be filled in by the previous course of dealing between the parties.  

Morrill has to do with an amendment of the MDOT condemnation statute as to the requirements in filing a notice of appeal.  The question was whether the change was meant to be retroactive so as to apply to the plaintiff's pending appeal.  The answer was yes, based on a reading of the language of the statute.  The most interesting part of the decision is a footnote summarizing the legislative history of the change, which showed that the bill was proposed by a legislator to address that very case.  While, as the Court noted, the intent of one legislator isn't determinative, as a practical matter, it's pretty telling.

On a separate issue and final note, I, like many, was very distressed to hear about the health situation of Professor Wanderer, the head of legal writing at the University of Maine Law School.  I've blogged about her activities before, e.g. her re-tooling of the Uniform Maine Citations.  As always, despite the news, she remains upbeat.  Our thoughts are with her.