A Portland woman will appeal a jury’s $4.6 million judgment against her in a lawsuit over a disputed bequest to the Portland Museum of Art.

A Cumberland County jury awarded that amount to the museum Monday at the end of a six-day trial. But Annemarie Germain won’t have to pay out that money while the Maine Supreme Judicial Court considers the case, and the parties are not likely to have a final resolution before the end of the year.

Eleanor G. Potter, a wealthy art collector who lived in Portland, changed her will just months before she died in 2015. She removed the museum as her primary beneficiary and instead left most of her estate to Germain, who was her caregiver for the last years of her life. The museum claimed Germain wrongfully dissuaded Potter from making that gift to the museum and sued her in 2017.

The jury ultimately awarded the Portland Museum of Art nearly $3.3 million that was considered lost because of the change in Potter’s will, in addition to more than $1 million in punitive damages. That amount would be substantial to the museum, which received nearly $8 million in contributions and grants in 2017, the most recent year tax documents are available.

Gene Libby, an attorney who represents Germain, said his client was prejudiced by multiple legal errors during the trial. In particular, he said, the museum should not have been allowed to bring the punitive damages claim, and he said the judge erred when he allowed the museum’s attorney to mention a separate bequest Germain received from Potter’s sister. He also said he plans to dispute the amount of the jury’s award to the museum because the parties dispute the current value of art pieces and collectibles from Potter’s estate.

Libby said Germain has never been investigated for or charged with a crime in connection to the dispute over the will. Libby said he does not know what the consequences would be if the appeal fails. He said his client was disappointed by the jury’s decision.


“But she maintained her composure, and was trying to understand and process the previous six days,” Libby said. “Litigation is not easy on anyone.”

Thimi Mina, who represents the museum, said the jury was attentive and thoughtful during the trial. He disagreed with Libby’s statement that the museum’s request for punitive damages was an overreach, and he said the museum will be able to seize assets to collect the judgment if they win on appeal.

“(The museum) was gratified that Mrs. Potter’s intentions to support the arts and the museum now have a chance to be recognized,” he said. “They didn’t take this lightly, but the conduct was so egregious that they felt to ignore it would have been irresponsible.”

Germain has been living in the Portland house she inherited from Potter while the case is pending, but she has not been able to access all of the money left by Potter’s estate. The Portland Museum of Art filed for and received an attachment for $1.2 million, meaning the court placed a hold on that amount. Mina said he will likely seek to increase that amount of money frozen by the attachment in light of the evidence presented at trial and the much larger judgment against Germain.

Potter was 89 when she died in March 2015. She collected art and antiques, and she was active at the PMA as a member of the leadership committee and a member of the board of the Victoria Mansion Society.

Her husband was Newell Potter, who owned Warren Furniture in Biddeford and Westbrook before he died in 2004. Germain had previously worked at Warren Furniture, and she became a live-in caregiver for Potter in 2012 after the widow suffered an injury.


When Newell Potter died, he left his assets to his widow. They had created reciprocal wills in the 1990s, and Eleanor Potter updated her will to include her sister in 2013. That will and estate plan included $500,000 to care for Potter’s sister, smaller gifts to her stepdaughter and stepgrandchildren, and the gift of her home to Germain.

Potter executed that updated will in March 2014. But court documents show that she soon fired her longtime attorney and turned to new counsel. She ultimately executed a new will in October 2014 that left her entire estate to Germain. The museum said Germain isolated and manipulated Potter, while Germain said the widow considered her like a daughter.

Should the Supreme Judicial Court uphold the jury’s verdict, Mina said he did not know exactly how the museum would use the award. Potter only indicated that it should be used for the general purpose of the museum, he said.

“They wanted to pay tribute for her generosity,” Mina said.

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