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Justices hear arguments on appeal in Bangor

Justices of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court gather in the jury room for a final disussion before entering the courtroom at the Penobscor Judicial Center in Bangor Tuesday morning, Nov. 9, 2010. The Maine Supreme Court is in session in Bangor for two days.From left are Justice Donald G. Alexander, Chief Justice Leigh I. Saufley, Justice Warren M. Silver, Justice Joseph M. Jabar, Justice Andrew M. Mead, Justice Ellen A. Gorman and Justice Jon D. Levy. (Bangor Daily News/Gabor Degre)
By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Justices on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court usually draw a crowd when they go on the road and convene in school gyms and auditoriums.

But few people other than the attorneys with cases before the court attended oral arguments Tuesday at the Penobscot Judicial Center, where six appeals were considered. That is normal when the court convenes at its home courtroom in the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland, Chief Justice Leigh I. Saufley has said.

A larger crowd is expected to attend oral arguments today when justices consider an appeal by Anthem Health Plans of Maine. The insurance company has appealed a 2009 decision by the Maine superintendent of insurance that found the company’s projected profit margin of 3 percent was excessive and that a zero projected margin was all she would approve.

Cases considered Tuesday included an employment dispute out of Hancock County, a medical malpractice lawsuit from Kennebec County and an Aroostook County land use disagreement.

Justices heard Bangor lawyer A.J. Greif’s arguments in an appeal of a Penobscot County jury’s verdict handed down last year in a product liability case against Architectural Doors and Windows, formerly Portland Glass. The jury found in the company’s favor.

The plaintiff, Craig Burns, 44, of Brewer, suffered a herniated disc on Nov. 12, 2001, when he was struck by a large garage door at Whited Ford and Truck Center on Perry Road in Bangor, Greif said outside the courtroom. Burns hired Greif to sue the firm about three years ago.

Greif told the high court that Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy should have allowed him to argue that the company had a duty to warn Whited, the employer, as well as Burns that the device used to lower the door was defective as installed. The attorney also said the judge erred in her instructions to the jury.

Stephen A. Bell, the Portland attorney for the firm that sold the door to Whited, told justices that the trial judge made the correct decisions and gave the correct instructions to jurors.

Other cases the justices will consider today include:

• A lawsuit in which several Washington County residents have asked for an interpretation of the word “navigation” as it relates to walking over intertidal land to reach the ocean to scuba-dive.

• An Eddington man’s appeal of his four-year-sentence for reckless violation of a protection order and two counts of misdemeanor assault. Ryan Witmer, 34, claims the judge based the sentence on conduct of which Witmer was acquitted.

There is no timetable under which the justices must issue their decisions.

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