Justia Internet Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court
Tammy and James Rutledge filed a lawsuit against Pamela Menard and Randall Nappi, seeking to recover personal property. The Rutledges followed the instructions on Form CV-218, which was available on the Maine Judicial Branch's website, to serve the defendants. This form was created during the COVID-19 pandemic and instructed plaintiffs to prepare for a telephonic status conference as the first court event. However, by the time the Rutledges filed their lawsuit, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court had rescinded most of the pandemic management orders, and court proceedings had returned to an in-person format.The District Court (Bridgton, Malia, J.) dismissed the Rutledges' complaint with prejudice due to their failure to appear in person for a hearing. The Rutledges had mistakenly believed that the initial court proceeding would be a telephonic status conference, as per the instructions on Form CV-218. They appealed the decision, arguing that the court erred in dismissing their case with prejudice and denying their post-judgment motion to reopen the case or amend the judgment to a dismissal without prejudice.The Maine Supreme Judicial Court found that the District Court did not err in finding that the Rutledges failed to appear. However, it held that the dismissal with prejudice was too drastic a sanction given the circumstances. The court noted that the Judicial Branch's website continued to direct parties to Form CV-218, which no longer reflected current court practices, contributing to the Rutledges' mistaken belief. The court also noted that the Rutledges' nonappearance was neither deliberate nor the result of misconduct, and they made a sustained effort to remedy their error. The court vacated the judgment and remanded the case to the District Court for entry of a judgment of dismissal without prejudice. View "Rutledge v. Menard" on Justia Law