Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Court

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Plaintiff was employed by a Hospital for nineteen years. In 2009, Plaintiff was deposed in connection with a wrongful death lawsuit against the Hospital. The day after Plaintiff signed her deposition transcript, the Hospital terminated Plaintiff's employment on the ground that a medical record entry Plaintiff described in her deposition constituted a falsification of a patient medical record. Plaintiff filed a complaint against the Hospital, alleging that it violated Me. Rev. Stat. 26, 833(1)(C) because it discharged her in retaliation for her deposition testimony in the wrongful death lawsuit against the Hospital. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of Hospital. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that Plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether her deposition was a substantial factor motivating her dismissal. View "Trott v. H.D. Goodall Hosp." on Justia Law

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D.S., who had several disabilities and disorders, was admitted to the Spurwink School for the provision of "necessary emotional, psychological and other therapeutic services and education." In 2004, D.S., then sixteen years old, arrived at school. An educational technician came outside when D.S. arrived, but D.S. shortly thereafter left the property on foot. D.S. was not located, and D.S. later alleged that, after leaving the school property, she was sexually assaulted by two strangers. In 2010, D.S.'s mother, on behalf of D.S., filed a five-count complaint against Spurwink Services. Spurwink Services moved to dismiss the complaint, asserting that the case was governed by the Maine Health Security Act (MHSA) and D.S. failed to comply with the requirements of the MHSA. The superior court entered summary judgment in favor of Spurwink Services, finding that it lacked jurisdiction over D.S.'s claims pursuant to the MHSA. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded, holding that the provisions of MHSA did not apply in this case, as D.S.'s action did not constitute an "action for professional negligence" as defined by the MHSA. View "D.S. v. Spurwink Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Department of Health and Human Services filed petitions seeking the appointment of a public guardian and conservator for Helen F. After a hearing, the county probate court adjudicated Helen to be incapacitated and appointed the Department as Helen's public guardian and conservator. Helen appealed. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding (1) Helen's case was before the Court without any acceptable record of the proceedings below; and (2) the trial court's inability to remember Helen's case, and Helen's corresponding inability to provide an adequate statement of the evidence was no fault of Helen's. Remanded for a de novo adjudication of Helen's capacity. View "In re Guardianship of Helen F." on Justia Law

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Police brought Marcia E. to a Hospital's emergency room after Marcia lit herself on fire. Medical staff evaluated Marcia and determined that she meet the criteria for emergency involuntary admission pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 34-B, 3863. It was not until the third day, when the Hospital could accommodate Marcia in its psychiatric unit, that Hospital officials applied for the judicial endorsement necessary to formally admit Marcia to the Hospital on an emergency basis. The court gave its endorsement. Two days later, the Hospital filed an application for Marcia's involuntary commitment. Marcia sought dismissal of the petition on the basis that the Hospital violated the statutory procedure for emergency hospitalization by holding her for three days before seeking the judicial endorsement. The court denied Marcia's motion to dismiss and ordered Marcia's hospitalization. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Hospital's failure to comply with the procedural requirements for Marcia's emergency admission did not constitute grounds for dismissal of the separate involuntary commitment petition, as the Hospital met all the requirements necessary to involuntarily commit Marcia. View "In re Marcia E." on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the question presented to the Supreme Court based on the facts of this case was: "[w]hen a physician is alleged to have acted as an apparent agent of a hospital, does the Maine Health Security Act require that the alleged negligent acts or omissions of that physician be evaluated by the mandatory prelitigation screening and mediation panel before a claim may be brought in court against the hospital based on that physician’s conduct? The Court answered that question in the affirmative: "[b]ecause Maine law requires that a prelitigation screening panel evaluate a physician's alleged professional negligence before consideration at trial, and because that did not occur in the instant case," the Court vacated the judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Levesque v. Central Maine Medical Center" on Justia Law

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Mrs. T. was the mother of C.T., a fifteen-year-old boy with severe disabilities. At issue in this case was C.T.'s eligibility for the Department of Health and Human Services' home and community-based waiver program. C.T. was approved for the waiver program but was not receiving services under the waiver when the Department instituted a new regulation that closed the program to children but grandfathered children who were already receiving services. Mrs. T. subsequently filed a grievance with the Department seeking to have C.T. declared waiver-eligible. The Commissioner of the Department accepted the recommendation of an administrative hearing officer that denied the grievance. The superior court affirmed. Mrs. T. appealed, contending that the Department was equitably estopped from denying services because she reasonably relied to her detriment on misinformation she received that C.T. was eligible. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Mrs. T. did not meet her burden to prove that her reliance on the misinformation given to her by the Department caused any detriment to C.T., the hearing officer did not err in finding that the Department was not equitably estopped from declaring C.T. ineligible for a waiver.

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The State filed an antitrust enforcement action against four MaineHealth entities based on the proposed acquisition by MaineHealth of two major cardiology practices. The matter was transferred to the business and consumer docket. Central Maine Medical Center (CMMC) moved to intervene in the proceeding, arguing that it had an interest in the case as a principal competitor in cardiovascular surgery of one of MaineHealth's hospitals. The lower court denied CMMC's motion. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of CMMC's motion, holding (1) because CMMC made no evidentiary showing of bad faith, collusion, or other malfeasance on the part of the government, and did not demonstrate that the disposition of the antitrust action would impair its ability to protect its interests through independent litigation, intervention of right was properly denied; and (2) the lower court did not err in denying permissive intervention after determining that joining the private cause of action to the State's enforcement claim would unduly burden the proceedings and supplying an alternative method for CMMC to participate in the action by providing oral comments and written submissions to the court.

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After being diagnosed with prostate cancer, Philip Baker filed a notice of claim in accordance with the Health Security Act, alleging that his primary care physician violated the applicable standard of care by failing to refer him to a urologist earlier, thus delaying his diagnosis. The superior court granted partial summary judgment to the doctor, finding that the three-year statute of limitations barred Baker's claims for negligent acts or omissions occurring more than three years before he filed his notice. In so ruling, the court declined to recognize the continuing negligent treatment doctrine, which allows a patient to assert a cause of action for professional negligence based upon two or more related negligent acts or omissions by a health care provider or practitioner if some, but not all, of the acts or omissions occurred outside of the statute of limitations period. The Supreme Court vacated the partial summary judgment, holding that the language of the Health Security Act authorizes claims of continuing negligent treatment. Remanded.

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Plaintiff Scott Hackett aggravated a pre-existing low back injury while working as a long distance truck driver for Western Express. After Hackett was terminated for reasons unconnected to his injury, Hackett filed a petition for award to the Workers' Compensation Board and was awarded ongoing partial incapacity benefits for a gradual injury to his lower back. When calculating Hackett's weekly wage, the hearing officer (1) excluded the nine cents per mile Hackett received as per diem pay, concluding that it was paid to cover special expenses, and (2) concluded that the per diem payments were not a fringe benefit that could be included to a limited extent in average weekly wage. Hackett appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed the hearing officer's decision but remanded for a recalculation of Hackett's fringe benefits pursuant to Me. W.C.B. R. ch. 1, 5(1).

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Plaintiffs-Appellants Dwayne and Debbie Bonney appeal the lower courtâs decision granting summary judgment to Defendant-Appellee Stephens Memorial Hospital. The Court vacated the decision on the state law claims, and remanded the case back to the lower court for further proceedings. Plaintiffs drove themselves to the hospital after a violent assault that took place at their home. A hospital security guard overheard the Plaintiffsâ discussion with nursing staff, and said that he was going to call the police. Despite the Plaintiffsâ protest, the guard made the call, and disclosed all information he overheard. Based on this information, police obtained a warrant to search the Plaintiffs' home, found evidence of marijuana cultivation, leading to the Plaintiffsâ subsequent indictment and conviction on drug trafficking charges. Citing a violation of state and federal law for unauthorized disclosure of health care information, the Plaintiffs brought suit seeking damages from the hospital and the unnamed guard. On appeal, the Court found that the lower court erred in dismissing the Plaintiffsâ state claims under summary judgment: â30-A.M.R.S. § 287 does not shield health care providers for the unauthorized reporting of confidential health care information when the reporting involved is not related to an examination of a victim performed to obtain evidence for the prosecution.â The Court upheld dismissal of the Plaintiffsâ claims under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) finding the law authorizes no private cause of action.