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Cyr v. Adamar Assoc., L.P. (corrected 6-13-00)

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MAINE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT					Reporter of Decisions
Decision:	2000 ME 110
Docket:	And-99-699
  on Briefs:	May 25, 2000
Decided:	June 9, 2000




	[¶1]  Thelma Cyr, the personal representative for the estate of her
daughter, Rachelle Williams, appeals from a summary judgment entered in
the Superior Court (Androscoggin County, Mead, C.J.) in favor of Adamar
Associates.  Cyr contends that she is entitled to recover from Adamar
Associates for the wrongful death of Williams.  We disagree and affirm the
	[¶2]  On Sunday, November 5, 1995, Rachelle Williams was a
registered guest at the Ramada Inn in Lewiston.  The Ramada is a facility
owned and operated by Adamar Associates.  Williams and some of her
colleagues from Pizza Hut were in Lewiston for a seminar.  That evening,
Williams and her co-workers socialized in the Ramada lounge.  While in the
lounge, Williams noticed that a man, later discovered to be Lloyd Franklin
Millett, was staring at her.  Around 11:00 P.M., Williams placed a twenty
dollar bill on the table and told her colleagues to pay for the beer that she
had just ordered because she was going to the ladies' room and would return
shortly.  Williams also left her cigarettes and lighter at the table in the
	[¶3]  Williams never returned to the lounge.  Her corpse was found
the next day in a field adjacent to the Ramada parking lot.  Ramada did not
own the field.  Williams had been raped, assaulted and strangled to death;
her injuries were consistent with a struggle.  Lloyd Franklin Millett later
pleaded guilty to murdering Williams. 
	[¶4]  When reviewing the grant of a summary judgment, we examine
the evidence in "a light most favorable to the party against whom the
judgment has been granted." See Nevin v. Union Trust Company,
1999 ME 47, ¶ 5, 726 A.2d 694, 696.  We will affirm the grant of a summary
judgment if, upon an independent review of the record, the evidence
manifests that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.  See Landry v. Leonard,
1998 ME 241, ¶ 4, 720 A.2d 907, 908.
	[¶5]  Cyr asserts that the Ramada breached its duty of care to
Williams because Millett's attack was foreseeable and because the Ramada's
inadequate security precautions proximately caused Williams' death.
Although an innkeeper has a duty to protect its patrons from foreseeable
injuries, the innkeeper is not liable for the resulting injuries unless the
innkeeper's conduct, or lack thereof, is found to be the proximate cause of
the patron's injuries.  See Brewer v. Roosevelt Motor Lodge, 295 A.2d 647,
651 (Me. 1972). 
	[¶6]  Proximate cause is an action occurring in a natural and
continuous sequence, uninterrupted by an intervening cause, that produces
an injury that would not have occurred but for the action.  See Webb v. Haas,
1999 ME 74, ¶ 20, 728 A.2d 1261, 1267.  "A negligent act is the proximate
cause of an injury only if the actor's conduct is a substantial factor in
bringing about the harm." See id.  Although proximate cause is usually a
question of fact for the jury, the court has a duty to direct a verdict for the
defendant if the jury's determination of proximate cause would be based on
speculation or conjecture.  See Webb, ¶ 20, 728 A.2d at 1267.  
	[¶7]  In the present case, no evidence exists to support a conclusion
that the Ramada proximately caused Williams' death.  Although it would not
be unreasonable to assume that Millett abducted Williams from the Ramada's
premises, the evidence does not reveal whether Williams voluntarily left the
Ramada property with Millett or whether he abducted her.  The lack of such
evidence and the discovery of Williams' body on property not owned by the
Ramada manifest that the relation between the Ramada's security measures
and Williams' death is too uncertain and tenuous to hold Adamar liable.  
	[¶8]  Adamar was entitled to a judgment as a matter of law because
without any evidence for the jury to consider regarding the circumstances
leading to the assault, the jury would be basing its determination of liability
on pure conjecture.  See Webb, ¶ 20, 728 A.2d at 1267; Champagne v. Mid
Maine Med. Ctr., 1998 ME 87, ¶ 10, 711 A.2d 842, 846 (quoting the
Restatement (Second) of Torts, § 433B, cmt. a, at 442 (1965), "[t]he mere
possibility of such causation is not enough; and when the matter remains
one of pure speculation or conjecture, or the probabilities are at best evenly
balanced, it becomes the duty of the court to direct a verdict for the
defendant"); Hersum v. Kennebec Water District, 151 Me. 256, 263, 117
A.2d 334, 338 (1955) (stating that "[i]f, when examined in the light of the
known facts, two or more theories remain equally probable and equally
consistent with the evidence, the selection of one to the exclusion of others
would rest upon mere surmise and conjecture").  There being no genuine
issues of material fact and no evidence of proximate cause, the trial court
properly entered a summary judgment in favor of Adamar.
	The entry is:
Judgment affirmed. 

Attorney for plaintiff: Anthony K. Ferguson, Esq. Fales & Fales, P.A. P O Box 889 Lewiston, ME 04243-0889 Attorney for defendant: Alan G. Stone, Esq. Skelton, Taintor & Abbott P O Box 3200 Auburn, ME 04212-3200