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Paffhausen v. Balano
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MAINE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT					Reporter of Decisions
Decision:	1999 ME 169
Docket:	Kno-99-151
on briefs:	September 15, 1999
Decided:	November 23, 1999	




	[¶1]  David Paffhausen appeals from a judgment entered in the Knox
County Probate Court (Emery, J.) ordering the estate of Elizabeth K. Balano
to pay Paffhausen quantum meruit damages based on the reasonable value of
the material and labor Paffhausen expended in remodeling a building owned
by Balano, offset by the value of Paffhausen's use of the building from 1990 to
1997.  Paffhausen does not challenge the amount found by the court to be
the reasonable value of the material and labor, nor does he dispute that he
has to be charged some amount for his use of the building.  He contends,
however, that the trial court erred (1) in calculating the yearly value of the
use of the property, and (2) by charging him for the use of the building for
the full seven plus years, when his productive uses of the building were for
brief periods of time.  Because there is sufficient evidence to support the
court's findings, we affirm the judgment.
	[¶2]  This case is before us for a second time, see Paffhausen v. Balano,
1998 ME 47, 708 A.2d 269 (Paffhausen I).  It began when David Paffhausen
decided to open a print shop for artists.  In early 1990, he approached
Elizabeth Balano about renovating a structure on her property to use as a
print shop.{1}  The two loosely agreed that Paffhausen would renovate the
building and when he began to operate the print shop, he would pay
monthly rent of $60.
	[¶3]  Paffhausen began work on the building in April of 1990.  The
work took longer than expected, and by the fall of 1994, it was not near
completion.  Given the length and cost of the project, Paffhausen decided to
finish one room so that he could earn money by holding art exhibits.  Upon
completing the one room in December of 1994, he held a seven to ten day
art exhibit.  At trial, Paffhausen testified that the December 1994 exhibit and
a three month exhibit in the summer of 1995 were the only productive uses
he made of the building.
	[¶4]  Despite the length of the project and Paffhausen's use of the
front room as an art gallery, Balano did not complain about Paffhausen's
progress, and she never asked him to pay any rent.  When she died on
October 30, 1995, the building was still not completed, and Paffhausen had
not paid any rent.
	[¶5]  Following Elizabeth Balano's death, Paffhausen and Balano's
personal representatives could not agree to a formal lease arrangement, and
when the estate refused to pay Paffhausen for the work he had done on the
building, he filed a claim against the estate.  The estate disallowed the claim
and, pursuant to 18-A M.R.S.A. § 3-806 (1998), Paffhausen filed a petition in
the Probate Court for allowance of his claim.  The court rejected
Paffhausen's quantum meruit claim but concluded that the estate had been
unjustly enriched in the amount of $12,300, and awarded damages to
Paffhausen in that amount.  See Paffhausen I, 1998 ME 47, ¶ 4, 708 A.2d at
270.  Paffhausen appealed that judgment.
	[¶6]  On Paffhausen's appeal, we agreed with Paffhausen that he had
established a quantum meruit claim arising out of his agreement with
Elizabeth Balano and the work he did on the building.  See Paffhausen I,
1998 ME 47, ¶ 11, 708 A.2d at 273.  We vacated the judgment for unjust
enrichment and remanded the case to the Probate Court for a determination
of Paffhausen's damages based on the reasonable value of Paffhausen's labor
and materials "offset by the value of [Paffhausen's] use of the building."  See
id., ¶ 12, 708 A.2d at 273.
	[¶7]  On remand, the court found that the reasonable value of the labor
and materials Paffhausen put into the building was $44,240.  Neither side
challenges that finding.  The court further found that Paffhausen should pay
a reasonable sum to the estate for his use of the building from 1990 to 1996. 
Relying on the trial testimony of certified appraiser Carleton Johnson, the
court determined that $20,900 represented the reasonable value of
Paffhausen's use of the building, and that that amount would offset the
$44,240.  The Probate Court later amended its order, increasing the offset
by an additional $3,800 because of Paffhausen's use of the building during
1997.  The court entered a final judgment in favor of Paffhausen for
	[¶8]  In this appeal from that judgment, Paffhausen contends that the
trial court erred in determining the value it placed on his use of the
building.  He further contends that he should be charged only to the extent
that he actually made good use of the building, specifically only the brief
periods of time when he used it for art exhibits.
	[¶9]  The measure of recovery in quantum meruit cases is "the
reasonable value of the services" provided.  See William Mushero, Inc., v.
Hull, 667 A.2d 853, 855 (Me. 1995).  We review that determination only for
clear error.  See id.  That same standard applies to the trial court's
determination of the value of Paffhausen's use of the building.  We will
disturb that finding only "'if there is no competent evidence in the record"
to support it.  See Down East Energy Corp. v RMR, Inc., 1997 ME 148, ¶ 7,
697 A.2d 417, 420 (quoting Glidden v. Belden, 684 A.2d 1306, 1320 (Me.
	[¶10]  In assigning a value to Paffhausen's use of the building, the court
had before it the expert testimony of Carleton Johnson, a certified real
estate appraiser.  Johnson testified that the yearly rental value of the
building when Paffhausen first began the renovation was $1080.  That figure
represented the use of the building for covered dry storage, and it was based
on the rent being received from similarly sized dry storage units.  Johnson
applied a higher value to the building for the period after it was placed on a
new foundation.  At that point, the building became suitable as a seasonal
office or gallery, and Johnson calculated its yearly rental value at $3,800,
again by comparing the building to others of similar size and use.
	[¶11]  Paffhausen contends that Johnson overvalued the building, and
that its rental value was substantially less than what Johnson testified to.  We
cannot vacate the court's finding, however, merely because the court could
have come to a different conclusion.  See, e.g., Banville v. Huckins, 407 A.2d
294, 298 (Me. 1979).  Johnson's testimony was not inherently incredible. 
Because there was competent evidence to support it, the trial court's
determination of the value of Paffhausen's use of the building was not clearly
	[¶12]  In determining the value of Paffhausen's use of the building, the
court found that Paffhausen had exclusive control of the building from 1990,
through 1997, a period of almost eight years, and assessed him for the use
during that entire period.  There was evidence that Paffhausen (1) was
actively renovating the building until November 1995; (2) never gave notice
that he was vacating the building; and (3) did not remove his personal items
until December of 1997.  Contrary to Paffhausen's contention that he should
be charged for the rental value of the building only for brief periods of time,
the court's offset against Paffhausen for his use of the building through 1997
is not clearly erroneous.
	The entry is:
			Judgment affirmed.

Attorney for plaintiff: Joseph Steinberger, Esq. P O Box 7 Rockland, ME 04841 Attorney for defendants: Stephen W. Hanscom, Esq. Crandall, Hanscom, Pease and Collins, P.A. P O Box 664 Rockland, ME 04841-0664
FOOTNOTES******************************** {1} . The structure was a 24' X 45' open garage.