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Law School Case Brief

Harvey v. Dow - 2011 ME 4, 11 A.3d 303


Statements or conduct representing a present commitment to do or refrain from doing something in the future reasonably can be expected to induce reliance and the promisee's reliance on such statements is reasonable. In that case, there is a promissory commitment or assurance which can be enforced. 


Over the course of several years, the daughter had built a house on a portion of property owned by the parents. She sued her parents, primarily seeking a judgment compelling the parents to convey unspecified real property to her, or for damages under various theories. The parents counterclaimed. The trial court found that the parents had not made an express promise to convey a parcel of land to the daughter, as she claimed. In the earlier appeal, however, the appellate court found that the trial court had failed to address the daughter's promissory estoppel claim. Following the prior remand, the trial court made no new factual findings and instead, based on the facts reported in the prior appeal, it concluded that the parents' actions and statements did not support a promissory estoppel claim and ruled for the parents on their request for a declaratory judgment. The daughter appealed.


In a suit where a daughter sought to compel her parents to convey real property to her and the parents counterclaimed, was it proper to grant the declaratory judgment in favor of the parents?





The Supreme Judicial Court of Maine found that the trial court found all of the facts relevant to a proper analysis, but came to the wrong conclusion. The parents' acquiescence, support, and encouragement of the daughter's construction of a house on a parcel of their land conclusively demonstrated their intention to make a present conveyance of that property. The trial court erred in concluding otherwise. Thus, the case was remanded for entry of a judgment in favor of the daughter on those counts and for further proceedings to determine a remedy.

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