D. Warren Justice, Superior Court
the court is a motion by defendant Cheryl Dyer to dismiss the
complaint filed by plaintiff Sappi North
America. Oral argument on the motion was held on
July 31, 2019 to address a jurisdictional issue raised by the
complaint Sappi alleges that Dyer has filed a petition for an
award of workers compensation death benefits pursuant to 39-A
M.R.S. § 215 as the spouse of Joseph Dias. The petition
alleged that Dias had died on July 28, 2017 as a result of
lung cancer resulting from exposure to asbestos while he was
employed at Sappi, 
complaint further alleges that Dyer had been Dias's
"significant other" for many years but that her
status as Dias's spouse is based on a marriage that
occurred on July 9, 2017, after Dias had apparently begun
receiving in-home hospice services from the Hospice of
Southern Maine. Sappi alleges that shortly before the
marriage Dias had been evaluated as unable to answer
questions and suffering from disorientation, delirium, and
impaired judgment and that Dias was not legally competent to
marry on July 9, 2017.
complaint seeks a declaratory judgment that Dyer was not
legally married to Dias at the date of his death, which would
make Dyer ineligible to receive benefits as a surviving
has moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction
and for failure to state a claim. In her motion papers she
argues that the court does not have subject matter
jurisdiction to consider a claim that is essentially a
proceeding to annul a marriage.
respect to the status of the workers compensation proceeding,
Sappi alleges in its complaint that when it sought to raise
the validity of the marriage in the workers compensation
proceeding, Dyer responded that the validity of the marriage
was not an issue that the Workers Compensation Board could
decide. Sappi thereafter brought a motion to stay
the workers compensation proceeding and filed this action. At
oral argument on July 31, the parties reported that by
agreement the workers compensation petition had been
subsequently dismissed without prejudice with the statute of
limitations tolled to allow refiling.
reviewing the papers filed by Dyer and Sappi on the pending
motion to dismiss, the court requested oral argument to allow
the parties to address a different issue relating to subject
matter jurisdiction - whether the court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction because issues relating to eligibility for
workers compensation benefits are within the exclusive
jurisdiction of the Workers Compensation Board.
issue of whether the court has subject matter jurisdiction
for purposes of M.R.Civ.P. 12(b](1) and 12[h](3) is an issue
of law, and the court may consider material outside of the
pleadings. See 2 C. Harvey, Maine Civil
Practice [3d. ed. 2011] § 12:7, citing
Guterriez v. Guterriez, 2007 ME 59 ¶¶
8-10, 921 A.2d 153.
purposes of a motion to dismiss under MR.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the
material allegations of the complaint must be taken as
admitted. Ramsey v. Baxter Title Co., 2012 ME 113
¶ 2, 54 A.3d 710. The complaint must be read in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff to determine if it sets
forth elements of a cause of action or alleges facts that
would entitle plaintiff to relief pursuant to some legal
theory. Bisson v. Hannaford Bros. Co., Inc., 2006 ME
131 ¶ 2, 909 A.2d 1010. Dismissal is appropriate only
when it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff is not
entitled to relief under any set of facts that he might prove
in support of his claim. Moody v. State Liquor &
Lottery Commission, 2004 ME 20 ¶ 7, 843 A.2d 43.
However, a plaintiff may not proceed if the complaint fails
to allege essential elements of the cause of action. See
Potter, Prescott, Jamieson & Nelson PA. v. Campbell,
1998 ME 70 ¶¶6-7, 708A.2d283.
l2[b] motion the court can consider official public
documents, documents that are central to the plaintiffs
claim, and documents referred to in the complaint, but cannot
otherwise consider materials outside of the complaint without
converting the motion into a motion for summary judgment.
Moody v. State Liquor & Lottery Commission, 2004
ME 20 ¶ 10.
case the court does not have to consider Dyer's Rule
l2(b](6] motion because it concludes that subject matter
jurisdiction is lacking.