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Hayes v. Lisbon Road Animal Hospital

Superior Court of Maine, Androscoggin

December 19, 2014



MaryGay Kennedy, Justice

Lindsy Hayes has filed a seven-count Complaint against Lisbon Road Animal Hospital ("Lisbon Road") following the protracted illness and death of her collie, Murphy. She attributes Murphy's death to Lisbon Road's negligence. Arguing that the following counts fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, Lisbon Road has moved pursuant to Maine Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(c) to dismiss Count IV for negligent infliction of emotional distress and Count VII for loss of companionship and intrinsic value. Ms. Hayes has opposed Lisbon Road's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. The court has reviewed the parties' filings and held a hearing on the Motion on August 7, 2014.

I. Factual Background

The following facts are gathered from the Complaint unless otherwise noted. In 2012, Ms. Hayes was the owner of a collie named Murphy. On July 20, 2012, Ms. Hayes took Murphy to Lisbon Road Animal Hospital in Lewiston to be evaluated for a skin condition. Murphy was prescribed a shampoo to treat seborrhea. Following that visit, Ms. Hayes continued to take Murphy to Lisbon Road, because Murphy's skin condition failed to improve and Murphy continuously lost weight. On November 16, 2012, Murphy was prescribed an antihistamine, Carprofen, and Ms. Hayes was advised to continue to use the shampoo and fish oil. Ms. Hayes brought Murphy to Lisbon Road on January 18, 2013, because Murphy was excessively scratching and chewing his hair out. While no physical examination of Murphy was performed, Murphy was prescribed Vetalog, Prednisone, and skin wipes.

When Ms. Hayes contacted Lisbon Road on January 31, 2013 and asked to recommence the Carprofen prescription, she was instructed to wait 2-3 days. Later, on February 11, 2013, Ms. Hayes called Lisbon Road in order to discuss medications. She reported that Murphy was constantly scratching, losing hair, and banging the floors at night. Lisbon Road prescribed an anti-itch medication and an increase in Murphy's Benadryl and fatty acids. When Ms. Hayes called again on February 15, Lisbon Road prescribed a 10-day supply of steroids and Carprofen.

The next day, Ms. Hayes informed Lisbon Road that Murphy was drinking and urinating excessively. Lisbon Road tested a urine sample, which showed an increase in protein and bacteria, but Lisbon Road informed Ms. Hayes that the test results were within the normal limits.

A CBC test was performed on February 20, 2013. It revealed an increase in Murphy's liver enzymes and white blood cell count. Lisbon Road decided that Murphy's medications caused the elevated results. At the time, Lisbon Road observed that Murphy appeared "emaciated", but Lisbon Road failed to perform a physical exam. Ms. Hayes called Lisbon Road on March 5, 2013, requesting a skin scrape. She was informed that Dr. Clark would return her call in the morning, but Lisbon Road never returned her call.

On March 7, 2013, Ms. Hayes brought Murphy into Lisbon Road and requested a skin scrape. Lisbon Road was unwilling to perform the skin scrape, and instead provided Revolution for Murphy and her other dogs. The Revolution box warns that it is not to be used on "sick, debilitated or underweight animals." (Pl's Compl. ¶ 19.) Between February 11, 2012 and February 20, 2013, Murphy had gone from 103 lbs. to 58.2 lbs.

Eventually, on March 11, 2013, Ms. Hayes brought Murphy to Central Maine Veterinary Hospital ("CMVH"), where they performed a skin scrape and determined that Murphy had mites. As a result, CMVH prescribed a treatment for Ms. Hayes and all of her dogs and cats. A CBC was administered, and it showed that Murphy's white blood cells and liver enzymes were high. The physical exam showed that Murphy had substantial muscle loss and a painful and tense abdomen.

Murphy's health continued to quickly and notably decline, and on March 21, 2013, Murphy was euthanized at CMVH. Following Murphy's death, Lisbon Road sent a reminder notice to Ms. Hayes for shots for her pets, including Murphy.

II. Standard

A motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to MR. Civ. P. 12(c) tests the legal sufficiency of the Complaint. See Cunningham v. Haza, 538 A.2d 265, 267 (Me. 1988). A "motion for judgment on the pleadings is nothing more than a motion under M.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Id.

When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) the Law Court has held that:

[w]e view the material allegation of the complaint as admitted and examine the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff to determine whether it sets forth elements of a cause of action or alleges facts that would entitle the plaintiff to relief pursuant to some legal theory. A dismissal is appropriate only when it appears beyond doubt that a plaintiff is entitled to no relief under any set of facts ...

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