KEVIN F. STRONG
REBECCA M. BRAKELEY et al
March 2, 2016.
briefs: Phillip E. Johnson, Esq., Johnson, Webbert & Young,
LLP, Augusta, for appellant Kevin F. Strong.
R. Poulin, Esq., and Amy Dieterich, Esq., Skelton Taintor &
Abbott, Auburn, for appellees Rebecca M. Brakeley and
Jonathan M. Bausman.Phillip E. Johnson, Esq., for appellant
Kevin F. Strong.
argument: Phillip E. Johnson, Esq., for appellant Kevin F.
R. Poulin, Esq., for appellees Rebecca M. Brakeley and
Jonathan M. Bausman.
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
[¶ 1] Kevin F. Strong appeals from a summary
judgment entered in the Superior Court (Androscoggin County,
MG Kennedy, J. ) in favor of Rebecca M. Brakeley and
Jonathan M. Bausman granting them immunity from Strong's
complaint for defamation and tortious interference with a
business relationship. Strong contends that the court erred
by concluding that 24 M.R.S. § 2511 (2015) provides
Brakeley and Bausman with absolute immunity for statements
they made regarding Strong's professional credentials. We
affirm the judgment.
[¶ 2] Viewed in the light most favorable to
Strong, the summary judgment record establishes the following
facts. See Cookson v. Brewer Sch.
Dep't, 2009 ME 57, ¶ 11, 974 A.2d 276.
Brakeley, Bausman, and Strong are all physicians licensed to
practice medicine in Maine. Synernet, Inc., is a "
credentials verification organization, which collects,
verifies, and dispenses physician credentialing
information" to its clients, including hospitals. St.
Mary's Regional Medical Center is a hospital that
provides health care services and follows competence review
processes. St. Mary's contracted with Synernet to collect
credentialing information on its behalf. Synernet began
collecting credentialing information regarding Strong after
Strong applied for staff privileges at St. Mary's in
2013. As part of that effort, Synernet sent "
Professional Reference Questionnaires" to Brakeley and
Bausman " for the purpose of assisting St. Mary's in
collecting credentialing information relating to
[Strong]." Brakeley and Bausman completed their
questionnaires and returned them to Synernet, which then
forwarded them to St. Mary's.
[¶ 3] On October 15, 2013, Strong filed a
complaint in the Superior Court against Brakeley and Bausman,
alleging that certain negative statements made by them on
Synernet's questionnaires caused St. Mary's to deny
him staff privileges. By amended complaint, Strong asserted
claims for defamation and tortious interference with his
business relationship with St. Mary's, and sought
punitive damages. Brakeley and Bausman filed a motion to
dismiss the complaint on the ground that they enjoyed
absolute immunity for their statements pursuant to 24 M.R.S.
§ 2511. The court denied the motion and allowed the case
to proceed, but limited the scope of discovery to the
immunity issue. After that discovery was completed, Brakeley
and Bausman filed a motion for summary judgment on all counts
and, based on its conclusion that section 2511 afforded them
absolute immunity, the court granted that motion. Strong
[¶ 4] When, as here, a defendant moves for
summary judgment, we first examine the summary judgment
record in the light most favorable to the plaintiff to
determine, de novo, whether any genuine dispute of material
fact exists for trial. Cookson, 2009 ME 57, ¶
11, 974 A.2d 276. " An issue is genuine if there is
sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute to
require a choice between the differing versions; an issue is
material if it could potentially affect the outcome of the
matter." Id. (quotation marks omitted).
[¶ 5] The court granted a summary judgment
based solely on Brakeley and Bausman's immunity pursuant
to 24 M.R.S. § 2511, which is found within the Maine
Health Security Act, 24 M.R.S. ...