Suppose the following: A subcontractor is hired by a construction company to dry-wall the outside of a building. The general contractor provides and erects a three-story staging to assist the subcontractor during that process. The staging is installed before the subcontractor is scheduled to start work, but does not contain safety equipment, such as rails, platforms, or ladders, and is not tied to the building. The subcontractor begins work on the building on Monday. On that same day, he falls while ascending the staging. He reports the fall to the general contractor and asks that safety equipment be installed on that portion of the building. Later that week, on Friday, the subcontractor spends about five hours on the high level of the staging. He then climbs up to the roof and performs work on the chimney for another hour. Shortly thereafter, the subcontractor finds himself on the ground. He remembers that he was on the roof of the main building and fell while climbing down the staging. However, he does not remember how he stepped off the roof or exactly how he fell. There were no witnesses to the accident. These are the facts of Addy v. Jenkins, Inc., as stated by the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine, sitting as the Law Court, in a review of the trial court’s decision to grant defendant Jenkins, Inc.’s motion for summary judgment. It must be noted that, in his deposition, the plaintiff testified that he could not remember whether he fell from the roof of an adjacent mechanical building, from a ladder leading to that building, or from the staging. However, the plaintiff later submitted an errata sheet, in which he noted that he recalled he had been on the roof of the main building and that he had fallen to the ground while climbing down the staging. Despite that inconsistency, the Law Court pointed out that on an appeal from summary judgment the evidence must be taken in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the plaintiff in this case. The Law Court held in Addy that summary judgment for the defendant on the issue of proximate causation was appropriate because “[a]ny finding that [the plaintiff’s] fall was caused by a defect in the staging would be based on speculation or conjecture.”6 Justice Silver, joined by Justice Levy, disagreed and expressed his concern that the majority’s decision created “a new and heightened burden with respect to the causation element of tort law, and . . . put plaintiffs at a disadvantage for a lack of memory that may itself be an inextricable part of the accident and the injury.” Part II of this Note examines the concept of proximate cause generally under Maine law and the standard of review on motions for summary judgment and for judgment as a matter of law in Maine cases. Additionally, Part II reviews Maine’s precedent on the issue of reasonable inference of proximate cause. This review focuses particularly on cases in which the plaintiff had no recollection of or could not explain how he was injured and there were no eye witnesses to relate what had transpired. Part III of this Note analyzes the procedural history of Addy and the reasoning applied by the majority and the dissent. Finally, in Part IV, this Note provides an in-depth analysis of the Addy decision and its effect on the doctrine of reasonable inference of proximate cause in Maine.
Denitsa N. Pocheva-Smith,
Has Addy v. Jenkins, Inc. Heightened the Standard for Establishing a Reasonable Inference of Proximate Cause in Maine?,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol63/iss1/11