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Guardianship of David P.

Supreme Court of Maine

November 15, 2018

GUARDIANSHIP OF DAVID P.

          Argued: September 11, 2018

          James S. Hewes, Esq. (orally), South Portland, for appellant David P.

          Janet T. Mills, Attorney General, and Cody M.P. Hopkins, Asst. Atty. Gen. (orally), Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee Department of Health and Human Services.

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          JABAR, J.

         [¶1] David P. appeals from a judgment of the Cumberland County Probate Court [Mazziotti, J.) appointing the Department of Health and Human Services as his limited public guardian pursuant to 18-A M.R.S. § 5-601 (2017). The Probate Court did not make any findings of fact in its final order, [1] and David did not request findings of fact pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 52(a) after the Probate Court entered its judgment. See M.R. Prob. P. 52 (providing that M.R. Civ. P. 52 applies in probate proceedings). Accordingly, we will assume that the trial court made all of the factual findings, to the extent those assumed facts are supported by competent record evidence, to support its judgment. See Ehret v. Ehret, 2016 ME 43, ¶ 9, 135 A.3d 101; Gehrke v. Gehrke, 2015 ME 58, ¶ 8, 115 A.3d 1252.

         [¶2] David contends that there was insufficient evidence to support the Probate Court's decision and that the Probate Court erred when it admitted in evidence a written report drafted by a psychologist. Although we agree that the Probate Court erred by admitting the psychologist's written report, we conclude that the error was harmless and that there was sufficient competent evidence in the record to support the Probate Court's decision. Therefore, we affirm the Probate Court's judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶3] In August 2017, the Department filed a petition for a public guardian to be appointed for David. See 18-A M.R.S. § 5-303 (2017). A one-day trial was held on February 22, 2018, where the Probate Court heard testimony from four witnesses, including a psychologist. The following facts are taken from the testimony of the witnesses at trial and are not contested on appeal.

         [¶4] Roughly a month before trial, the Department hired a clinical psychologist to evaluate David. The psychologist performed a one-hour evaluation of David on January 22, 2018. During his evaluation, the psychologist performed cognitive tests on David that indicated the presence of dementia, but the psychologist was unable to determine the degree of dementia present. Following his evaluation and a review of multiple medical reports, the psychologist rendered his opinion, in which he concluded that David needed a guardian. The psychologist testified that he came to this conclusion

not based on my immediate interview with [David], but rather based on the . . . medical history . . . and the condition of deterioration of his health and his hygiene when he's on his own. ... [S]o my conclusion that [David] needed a guardian is because of the... repetitive history of really falling into a serious medical crisis as a result of failure to take care of himself.

         In conjunction with this testimony, the Department offered the psychologist's written report in evidence, and it was admitted over David's objection. The Probate Court entered a judgment appointing the Department as David's limited public guardian, and David brought this timely appeal.

         [¶5] In this appeal, David raises two issues: (1) whether the Probate Court erred by admitting the psychologist's written report and (2) whether there was sufficient evidence to support the Probate Court's decision. Because we conclude that there was more than sufficient evidence to support the Probate Court's appointment of a limited public guardian for David, we ...


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