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Baillargeon v. Baillargeon

Superior Court of Maine, Androscoggin

January 23, 2017

LORI BAILLARGEON Plaintiff,
v.
GARY BAILLARGEON, Defendant.

          ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          MaryGay Kennedy justice, Superior Court.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Dismiss Defendant's Counterclaim.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Lori Baillargeon and Defendant Gary Baillargeon married in 1991. In 2014, Plaintiff and Defendant began divorce proceedings in Lewiston District Court. On September 29, 2014, after the divorce proceedings had begun, Plaintiff brought this action in the Superior Court for assault and battery, intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress, and malice. Defendant filed a counterclaim on November 3, 2014 asserting counts of abuse of process, interference with an advantageous relationship, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and defamation. On November 10, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Dismiss Defendant's Counterclaim.

         II. Standard of Review

         On review of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court accepts the facts alleged in the complaint as true. Saunders v. Tisher, 2006 ME 94, ¶ 8, 902 A.2d 830. The Court "examine[s] the complaint in the light most favorable to 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." Doe v. Graham, 2009 ME 88, ¶ 2, 977 A.2d 391 (quoting Saunders, 2006 ME 94, ¶ 8, 902 A.2d 830). "For a court to properly dismiss a claim for failure to state a cause of action, it must appear 'beyond doubt that [the] plaintiff is entitled to no relief under any set of facts that might be proven in support of the claim.'" Dragomir v. Spring Harbor Hosp., 2009 ME 51, ¶ 15, 970 A.2d 310 (quoting Plimpton v. Gerrard, 668 A.2d 882, 885 (Me. 1995)).

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiff moves the Court for dismissal of Defendant's Counterclaim on the basis that all claims alleged are barred by the doctrine of spousal immunity. The doctrine of spousal immunity holds that no cause of action arises from tortious conduct committed between spouses during a marriage. Abbott v. Abbott, 67 Me. 304, 305-06 (1877). The purpose of spousal immunity is the "preservation of domestic peace and felicity." Bedell v. Reagan, 159 Me. 292, 296, 192 A.2d 24 (Me. 1963). However, the Law Court has found that spousal immunity is not to be applied where doing so would produce injustice. Id. at 297; MacDonald v. MacDonald, 412 A.2d 71, 75 (Me. 1980) ("the general rule of tort law that one person injured by the tortious conduct of another person may maintain a civil action to recover damages from the tortfeasor is not rendered inapplicable solely because the injured person and the tortfeasor were husband and wife when the tort was committed.").

         In determining whether application of the doctrine of spousal immunity would produce injustice, "the court should examine the policy reasons advocated for the immunity and how those policy reasons relate to the strong general principle of Maine law that there should be no wrong without a remedy." Smith v. LaMontagne, 1982 Me. Super. LEXIS 56, *3 (Me. Super. Ct. Oct. 25, 1982). Stated another way, the Court must make a ruling as to whether the complained of conduct is considered to be "privileged or not tortious" between spouses, even if the conduct would be considered differently between individuals with no spousal ties. MacDonald v. MacDonald, 412 A.2d 71, 75 n. 5 (Me. 1980).

         In Henricksen v. Cameron, the Law Court applied this reasoning to a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress for physical and verbal abuse committed during a marriage:

The issue before us then, is whether physical violence accompanied by verbal abuse that was intended to inflict emotional distress is, by virtue of the mutual concessions implicit in marriage, privileged or not tortious because the parties were married to each other when that violence occurred. We hold that it is not so privileged.

Henricksen v. Cameron, 622 A.2d 1135, 1138 (Me. 1993). The Court analyzes each claim put forth by Defendant according to this reasoning.

         a. Abuse of Process

         Defendant has brought a claim for abuse of process. Abuse of process may be found where a plaintiff has alleged "the use of process in a manner improper in the regular conduct of the proceeding and the existence of an ulterior motive." Potter, Prescott, Jamieson & Nelson, P.A. v. Campbell,1998 ME 70, ¶ 7, 708 A.2d 283, 286 (Me. 1998). "Regular use of process can not constitute abuse, even though the user was actuated by a wrongful motive, purpose or intent." Saliem v. Glovsky, 132 Me. 402, 406, 172 A. 4, 6 (Me. 1934). In the current case, Defendant has failed to set out the elements of abuse of process. Instead, Defendant has asserted that Plaintiff was motivated to bring suit in order to gain leverage in the underlying divorce proceeding and/or to cause professional injury and embarrassment to Defendant. Defendant has not pled that there is no underlying legal basis for the action. The Court grants Plaintiff's Motion to ...


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