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Fleet Bank v. Griffin
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MAINE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT					Reporter of Decisions
Decision: 1997 ME 45
Docket:   WAS-96-530
Submitted on briefs  February 26, 1997
Decided  March 14, 1997

Panel: WATHEN, C.J., and ROBERTS, GLASSMAN, CLIFFORD, RUDMAN, and DANA, JJ.


FLEET BANK OF MAINE v. JEFF GRIFFIN, d/b/a J & C TRUCKING
RUDMAN, J.

	[¶1]  Jeff Griffin, d/b/a J & C Trucking (Griffin) appeals from the
judgment entered in the Superior Court (Washington County, Kravchuk, J.)
affirming a forcible entry and detainer judgment entered in the District
Court (Machias, Romei, J.) in favor of Fleet Bank of Maine (Fleet Bank). 
Griffin contends that the trial court, inter alia, erred in determining that the
sureties he provided were insufficient.  We agree and vacate the judgment.
	[¶2]  Fleet Bank commenced an action for forcible entry and detainer
against Jeff Griffin seeking possession of a 1988 CMI Load King Flatbed
Trailer alleging that the flatbed was pledged as security for a debt owed by
Charles P. Curtis then in default.  In response to the complaint, Griffin
claimed title to the flatbed.  The court found that Griffin's claim of title was
not frivolous and ordered Griffin and Fleet Bank "[t]o provide surety or
sureties to each other in the amount of $1,500 conditional on [Fleet Bank's]
entering the action in the Superior Court within 30 days."  Griffin provided a
surety bond which stated in part

	KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENTS that we JEFF
GRIFFIN,  of Dennysville, Maine, as principal, and Gardner
Griffin, of Edmunds, Maine and Timothy Griffin, of Pembroke,
Maine, as sureties, are holding and stand firmly bound unto
FLEET BANK OF MAINE, a Maine corporation with a place of
business in Bangor, County of Penobscot, State of Maine, its
successors and assigns, in the sum of One Thousand Five
Hundred Dollars ($1,500.00) to be paid to the said Fleet Bank of
Maine, or its successors and assigns, upon demand to which
payment well and truly be made; we bind ourselves, our heirs
and personal representatives, jointly and severely, [sic] firmly by
these presents, sealed with our seals and dated this 6th day of
April, A.D., 1995.

	The condition of this obligation is such that whereas the
said Fleet Bank of Maine has brought an action of Forcible Entry
and Detainer against the said Jeff Griffin and wherein he has
filed an affirmative defense claiming title to the premises
described in the action aforesaid be in himself.

	NOW THEREFORE, if the said Jeff Griffin shall pay all such
intervening damages and costs as may be adjudged against him
and a reasonable rent for said premises then this bond shall be
void.  Otherwise, it shall remain in full force.

	[¶3]  Fleet Bank then filed a motion for a default judgment claiming
that the sureties provided by Griffin were insufficient as a matter of law.  The
court agreed and entered a judgment in favor of Fleet Bank.  The Superior
Court affirmed the decision of the District Court.  This appeal followed.
	[¶4]  When the Superior Court acts in an intermediate appellant
capacity, as in the instant case, we review the decision of the District Court
directly.  Estate of Saliba v. Dunning, 682 A.2d 224, 226 (Me. 1996).  "We
review a trial court's interpretation of a statute for errors of law."  Fullerton
v. Knox County Comm'rs, 672 A.2d 592, 594 (Me. 1996).
	[¶5]  Griffin contends that the trial court erred in finding that his
unsecured promise to pay, which listed two of his family members as
sureties, was insufficient to satisfy 14 M.R.S.A. § 6012.  Griffin argues that
section 6012 does not provide for security to be furnished by either the
principal or his sureties. 
	[¶6]  Title 14 M.R.S.A. § 6012 (1980){1} provides in pertinent part:

[I]f defendant shall claim title to said property in himself, he
shall provide claimant with a sufficient surety or sureties to pay
all intervening damages and costs and a reasonable rental for use
of said personal property.  The plaintiff shall in like manner
provide surety or sureties to the defendant conditioned to enter
the action in Superior Court within 30 days and to pay all costs
adjudged against him.  If either party neglects to so provide said
surety or sureties, judgment shall be rendered against him.

	[¶7]  In the instant case, the trial court interpreted the language
contained in section 6012 and determined that the surety provided by
Griffin was not "sufficient" within the meaning of the statute: 
Defendant has provided Plaintiff with a document signed by
himself and two members of his family which is essentially an
unsecured promise to pay.  Defendant's "surety" is not what is
contemplated by Section 6012 of the Forcible Entry and
Detainer Statute.  See Ford Motor Credit Co. v. Machias Ford,
Mercury, Inc., 509 A.2d 658 (Me. 1986).  The "surety" provided
by the Defendant is a recital of proposed indebtedness of the
alleged sureties.  Such a surety would require the successful
party to take extra steps to enforce the promise to pay.
	[¶8]  When interpreting the language of a statute, the court must first
look to the plain meaning of the statutory language in an effort to give effect
to the legislative intent.  Fullerton, 672 A.2d at 594.  Statutory language
should be construed to avoid absurd, illogical, or inconsistent results.  Id. 
	[¶9]  The plain reading of the statute obligates the defendant to
provide the claimant with "a sufficient surety or sureties."  The statute does
not provide that the sureties secure their obligation.  A surety is "[o]ne who
undertakes to pay money or to do any other act in [the] event that his
principal fails therein."  Black's Law Dictionary 1441 (6th ed. 1990).  The
undertaking supplied by Griffin does exactly that.  Gardner Griffin and
Timothy Griffin have agreed to pay damages to Fleet Bank should Jeff Griffin
fail to do so.  The court erred when it concluded, as a matter of law, the
proffered surety was insufficient as a matter of law.  We note that Fleet Bank
did not seek to examine the sureties as to their financial resources which
might or might not establish, as a matter of fact, the sufficiency of the
sureties.
	[¶10]  The other issues raised by Griffin do not merit consideration.
	The entry is:
Judgment vacated.  Remanded for
further proceedings consistent with the
opinion herein. 

Attorneys for plaintiff: Michael S. Haenn, Esq. Jana S. Stabile, Esq. P O Box 915 Bangor, ME 04404-0915 Attorney for defendant: William S. Silsby, Jr., Esq. Silsby & Silsby P O Box 449 Ellsworth, ME 04605
FOOTNOTES******************************** {1} Title 14 M.R.S.A. § 6012 was repealed and replaced by P.L. 1995, ch. 448 , § 4 (effective date Sept. 29, 1995). Since this action was commenced prior the effective date of the amendment, the earlier version of § 6012 governs.