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Sullivan v. Porter

Maine Supreme Judicial Court
861 A.2d 625 (2004)


Facts

Merval and Susan Porter (defendants) own property including a farmhouse, barn, horse stable, and fifty-two acres of land. Joan Sullivan (plaintiff) began managing the horse stable for the Porters in December 1999. In August 2000, Merval offered to sell the entire property to Sullivan and David Andrews (plaintiff) for $350,000 so Sullivan and Andrews could run their horse trail riding and lessons business on the land. The sale would be owner-financed with an interest rate between five and seven percent for a period between twenty and thirty years, with a $20,000 down payment. Sullivan and Andrews orally accepted this offer, and informed Merval they would refinance their house to acquire the money for the down payment. Merval said he would contact his attorney to draw up the paperwork, but never did. In September 2000, Sullivan and Andrews took possession of the property and began making improvements. The parties agreed to meet again on November 25, 2000 to exchange half of the down payment. On November 25th, however, Merval only accepted $3,000 of the $10,000 Sullivan was ready to pay. After this meeting, Sullivan and Andrews completed extensive renovations of the entire property and started their horse trail riding and lessons business. In June 2001, Sullivan sent Merval a copy of an appraisal valuing the property at $250,000, but stated she would still pay the agreed-upon price of $350,000. Merval responded by saying he would sell the property for $450,000 with a $50,000 down payment. Sullivan and Andrews brought suit against the Porters in Maine state court, alleging the existence of an oral contract and promissory estoppel, and seeking specific performance. The jury found a contract existed, and held for Sullivan and Andrews on the issues of the part performance doctrine, promissory estoppel, and specific performance. The trial judge ordered specific performance, and the Porters appealed.

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