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King v. Central Maine Medical Center

Superior Court of Maine, Androscoggin

September 28, 2016

CHRISTOPHER KING Plaintiff,
v.
CENTRAL MAINE MEDICAL CENTER, Defendant.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS COUNT II OF PLAINTIFF'S AMENDED COMPLAINT & PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE A SUPPLEMENTAL PLEADING

          MaryGay Kennedy Justice.

         Presently before the Court are the following motions: (1) Defendant Central Maine Medical Center's ("CMMC") motion to dismiss Count II of Plaintiff Christopher King's amended complaint pursuant Maine Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; and (2) Plaintiff's "motion for leave to file an amended or supplemental pleading." For the reasons discussed below, CMMC's motion to dismiss is denied. Plaintiff's motion for leave to file a supplemental pleading is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff's amended complaint alleges the following facts. Plaintiff is a registered nurse licensed by the Maine State Board of Nursing (the "Board"). (Am. Compl. ¶ 1.) Plaintiff was employed at CMMC from March 2010 until he was fired on May 22, 2014. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 20.) Plaintiff alleges that he repeatedly reported to CMMC administrators that the nurse staffing levels in the emergency department were inadequate and posed a substantial risk to patients. (Id. ¶¶ 7-19.) King alleges that he was fired in retaliation for his reports. (Id. ¶21.)

         By letter dated July 9, 2014, the Board notified Plaintiff that it had opened an investigation of him for violations of the Nursing Practice Act. (Id. ¶ 28.) The Board's investigation was prompted by a report from CMMC, conveying CMMC's "suspicion" that Plaintiff had committed certain misconduct. (Id. ¶ 30.) Plaintiff asserts that the alleged misconduct that was the basis of the investigation was conduct within the scope of his employment at CMMC. (Id. ¶ 29.) Plaintiff asserts that the Board concluded on October 8, 2015, that the evidence did not support CMMC's "suspicion" as described in the report. (Id. ¶ 31.) Plaintiff conceded that, at the time his complaint was filed, the Board's investigation remained open and he remained subject to potential discipline by the Board. (Id. ¶ 32.)

         Plaintiff filed a two-count complaint against CMMC on May 11, 2016. Plaintiff's complaint asserts claims for violations of the Maine Whistleblower's Protection Act (the "MWPA") (Count I) and for indemnity under § 714 of the Maine Nonprofit Corporation Act (the "MNCA") (Count II). CMMC moved to dismiss both counts on June 6, 2016. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on June 22, 2016. The amended complaint resolved the issues raised in CMMC's motion to dismiss regarding Count I.

         CMMC filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint on July 5, 2016. CMMC's motion to dismiss the amended complaint sought to dismiss only Count II for indemnity under §714 of the MNCA. CMMC argued that Plaintiff's claim for indemnity pursuant to § 714 failed to state a claim for two reasons: (1) Plaintiff was not entitled to indemnification under § 714 because there had been no final disposition by the Board;[1] and (2) CMMC is immune from liability for making reports to the Board under §2511 of the Maine Health Security Act (the "MHSA"). (Def. Mot. Dismiss 1-2.) Alternatively, Defendant requested the court stay this action pending resolution of the appeal in Lalonde v. Central Maine Medical Center, AUBSC-CV-15-078. (Id. at 2.) Oral argument on Defendant's motion to dismiss was held on August 30, 2016.

         On August 29, 2016, the day prior to oral argument, Plaintiff filed a "motion for leave to file an amended or supplemental pleading." In his motion, Plaintiff avers that the Board held an adjudicatory hearing on August 25, 2016, which resulted in Plaintiff's complete exoneration of any misconduct. (PL Mot. for Leave to Supplement 2.) Plaintiff asserts that the Board's August 25, 2016 decision completely resolves CMMC's first basis for dismissing Count II. (Id.) Plaintiff acknowledges that the Board's August 25, 2016 decision does not affect Defendant's claim of immunity. (Id. at 2 n.2.)

         CMMC did not file an opposition to Plaintiff's "motion for leave to file an amended or supplemental pleading." Plaintiff's motion was discussed at the August 30, 2016 oral argument on CMMC's motion to dismiss. CMMC did not oppose Plaintiff's motion, but reiterated its argument that Count II did not state a claim for indemnity under § 714 because there had been no final disposition by the Board when the amended complaint was filed. CMMC asserted that it was still necessary for the court to determine whether Plaintiff's amended complaint stated a claim for indemnity prior to the Board's August 25, 2016 decision, because otherwise, CMMC could be liable for interest on any judgment in Plaintiff's favor dating back to the date of the original complaint under the relation back provision of Maine Rule of Procedure 15(c).

         II. PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE A SUPPLEMENTAL PLEADING

         The court first addresses Plaintiff's "motion for leave to file an amended or supplemental pleading." Maine Rule of Civil Procedure 15(d) provides:

Upon motion of a party the court may, upon reasonable notice and upon such terms as are just, permit the party to serve a supplemental pleading setting forth transactions or occurrences or events which have happened since the date of the pleading sought to be supplemented. Permission may be granted even though the original pleading is defective in its statement of a claim for relief or defense. If the court deems it advisable that the adverse party pleads to the supplemental pleading, it shall so order, specifying the time therefor.

M.R. Civ. P. 15(d) (emphasis supplied). Because the new allegations in Plaintiff's motion occurred after the filing of his initial and amended complaints, Plaintiff's motion is one for leave to supplement a pleading, not to amend.

         The court will ordinarily grant a motion to file supplemental pleading unless the opposing party can show that their position will be prejudiced or that the litigation will be unreasonably delayed. Rancourt v. City of Bangor, 400 A.2d 354, 356 (Me. 1979). Because CMMC has not expressed any opposition to the motion and there is no evidence that CMMC will be prejudiced or the litigation will be delayed, Plaintiff's motion for leave to file a supplemental pleading shall be granted.

         III. CMMC'S MOTION TO DISMISS

         As previously discussed, CMMC argues that Plaintiff's amended complaint fails to state a claim for indemnity pursuant to § 714 for two reasons: (1) Plaintiff was not entitled to indemnification under § 714 because there had been no final disposition by the Board; and (2) CMMC is immune from liability for making reports to the Board under § 2511 of the MHSA. (Def. Mot. Dismiss 1-2.)

         A. Standard of Review

         The court shall dismiss a civil action when the complaint fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." M.R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. State v. Weinschenk,2005 ME 28, ¶ 10, 868 A.2d 200. The sufficiency of a complaint is a question of law. Bean v. Cummings,2008 ME 18, ¶ 7, 939 A.2d 676. On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the facts are not adjudicated. Marshall v. Town of Dexter,2015 ME 135, ¶ 2, 125 A.3d 1141. The court reviews the material allegations in 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, if proven, would entitle the plaintiff to relief pursuant to some legal theory. Bean, 2008 ME 18, ...


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