ESTATE OF PAUL F. TREWORGY et al.
COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, et al.
Argued: March 3, 2017
Cynthia A. Dill, Esq. (orally), Troubh Heisler, PA, Portland,
for appellants Jane M. Treworgy, John F. Treworgy, and the
Estate of Paul F. Treworgy
T. Mills, Attorney General, and Christopher C. Taub, Asst.
Atty. Gen. (orally), Office of the Attorney General, Augusta,
for appellees Jodi Ingraham, Martha Perkins, and the
Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and
Jane M. Treworgy, John F. Treworgy, and the Estate of Paul F.
Treworgy (collectively, the Treworgys) appeal from a judgment
entered in the Superior Court (Penobscot County,
Mallonee, J.) dismissing their constitutional and
statutory claims against the Commissioner of the Department
of Health and Human Services and two Department employees,
Jodi Ingraham and Martha Perkins. The court concluded that
the Treworgys' claims are precluded by a previous
judgment in the Commissioner's favor in an action in
federal court arising out of the same allegedly wrongful
acts. We affirm the judgment.
In both their June 2014 action in federal court and their
February 2016 action in the Superior Court, the Treworgys
alleged the following facts. See Sabina v.JPMorgan Chase
Bank, N.A., 2016 ME 141, ¶ 2, 148 A.3d 284. Paul
Treworgy was Jane's husband and John's father. In
June 2010, after encountering various health problems, he
signed an advance healthcare directive authorizing Jane (or,
in the alternative, John) to make healthcare decisions for
him. See 18-A M.R.S. §§ 5-801, 5-802
(2016). He indicated that he wanted Jane to serve as his
guardian if he ever needed one, that he wanted "to be
kept alive as long as possible within the limits of generally
accepted health care standards, " and that he did not
want to be given morphine or other opiates unless he was in
The Treworgys allege that despite being aware of Paul's
wishes as expressed in his advance healthcare directive, the
Department, through its employees, unlawfully instituted
temporary guardianship proceedings, see 18-A M.R.S.
§ 5-310-A (2016),  and took control of his healthcare
decisions. The Treworgys also allege that while acting
unlawfully as the public guardian, the Department, through
its employees, made healthcare decisions for Paul that ran
contrary to his wishes and the wishes of Jane and John.
According to the Treworgys' complaints, the Department
and its employees took unauthorized steps to place Paul in a
nursing home in September 2011, where he was mistreated;
ordered the administration of opiates and cessation of his
cancer treatment; and refused to disclose documentation to
the Treworgys. Paul died in the nursing home on October 29,
The Treworgys first filed an action in the United States
District Court for the District of Maine on June 13, 2014.
They named as defendants the Commissioner, in her official
capacity; Ingraham, "in her individual capacity";
the Penobscot County Commissioners; and the Penobscot County
Register of Probate, in her official capacity. Pursuant to 42
U.S.C.S. § 1983 (LEXIS through Pub. L. No. 115-45), the
Treworgys claimed that all defendants violated various rights
guaranteed by the United States Constitution. They also
claimed violations of the Maine Constitution and Maine's
Uniform Health-Care Decisions Act, see 18-A M.R.S.
§§ 5-801 to 5-818 (2016).
In February 2015, the court [Singal, I.) dismissed
all claims against the Commissioner and the County defendants
with prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief
could be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). It
also dismissed the claims against Ingraham without prejudice
upon determining that the Treworgys did not demonstrate good
cause for failing to timely serve her. The Treworgys did not
appeal from the judgment.
Approximately one year later, the Treworgys filed the
Superior Court action giving rise to this appeal. In this
action, they named the Commissioner, in her official
capacity; Ingraham; and Perkins as defendants. They alleged
the facts described above. Against the Commissioner, they
asserted claims for breach of fiduciary duty and breach of a
duty to properly supervise employees. Against Ingraham and
Perkins, they asserted claims for due process and privacy
rights violations pursuant to the Maine Civil Rights Act,
see 5 M.R.S. §§4681-4685 (2016), and
violation of the Uniform Health-Care Decisions Act,
see 18-A M.R.S. §§ 5-801 to 5-818.
The Commissioner, Ingraham, and Perkins moved to dismiss the
Treworgys' claims, arguing, inter alia, that the claims
against the Commissioner were barred by the doctrine of res
judicata given the disposition of the prior action in federal
court. They attached a copy of the Treworgys' federal
court complaint. In a reply to the Treworgys'
opposition, they argued that the statutory claims against
Ingraham and Perkins were also precluded by the judgment in
the Commissioner's favor in the previous federal court
After holding a hearing, the court [Mallonee, J.)
dismissed all of the Treworgys' claims. The court
concluded that the claims against all three defendants were
barred by the claim preclusion component of the doctrine of
res judicata, in part because "[a]ll parties to [the
Superior Court] action ...