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Salerno v. Spectrum Medical Group, P.A.

Supreme Court of Maine

August 20, 2019

ANN SALERNO
v.
SPECTRUM MEDICAL GROUP, P.A.

          Submitted On Briefs: June 26, 2019

          Jonathan W. Brogan, Esq., Norman, Hanson & DeTroy, LLC, Portland, for appellant Spectrum Medical Group, P.A.

          Richard R. Regan, Esq., Moncure & Barnicle, Topsham, for appellee Ann Salerno.

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

          HJELM, J.

         [¶1] In December of 2017, Ann Salerno filed a complaint in the Superior Court (York County) against Spectrum Medical Group, PA, stating a claim for personal injury based on premises liability. In her complaint, Salerno alleged that more than three years earlier she slipped, fell, and sustained injuries in the locker room of a facility "owned and run" by Spectrum. Spectrum moved for the court to dismiss Salerno's complaint on the ground that, in reality, the claim was for medical negligence, which must be brought in accordance with the procedural requirements of the Maine Health Security Act (MHSA), 24 M.R.S. §§2501-2988 (2018). The court [O'Neil, J.) entered an order denying Spectrum's motion, and Spectrum appeals that order. We agree with Spectrum that this interlocutory appeal falls within an exception to the final judgment rule. Reaching the merits, we affirm the order denying Spectrum's motion to dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The following facts are drawn from Salerno's complaint, which are deemed admitted for purposes of this appeal, see Lawson v. Willis, 2019 ME 36, ¶ 2, 204 A.3d 133, and from the procedural record.

         [¶3] In June of 2014, Salerno underwent hip replacement surgery, after which she was required to follow strict precautions to protect her new hip. Two months after the surgery, on August 6, 2014, Salerno went to a facility in Saco owned by Spectrum to engage in water therapy. Although the water therapy itself took place in an area of the premises that was operated by a different entity, Spectrum operated a locker room where Salerno changed from her swimsuit into her street clothes. Because of the surgery, Salerno needed to use a bench to change her clothes. That day, however, the only bench in the locker room was covered by a heavy rubber mat that should have been on the floor in front of a nearby shower stall. The shower stall had a handicapped-accessible seat, which Salerno attempted to use because the bench was not available. While attempting to get to the seat in the shower stall, Salerno slipped, fell, and was injured.

         [¶4] More than three years later, on December 11, 2017, Salerno filed a complaint against Spectrum stating a tort claim for premises liability. Spectrum moved to dismiss Salerno's claim, see M.R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), asserting that the facts alleged in the complaint actually constitute an action for professional negligence as defined by the MHSA, see 24 M.R.S. § 2502(6), and that her claim is therefore controlled by that Act, see id. § 2903(1) (stating "[n]o action for professional negligence may be commenced until the plaintiff has" complied with the requirements of this section). Spectrum further asserted that because the MHSA provides a three-year statute of limitations for "actions for professional negligence," id. § 2902, Salerno's complaint was time-barred.

         [¶5] In an order issued in November of 2018, the court denied Spectrum's motion, concluding that Salerno's claim, as alleged, does not arise out of the provision or failure to provide healthcare services within the meaning of the MSHA, see 24 M.R.S. § 2502(6), and therefore Salerno's claim "does not fall under the MHSA and was timely commenced," see 14 M.R.S. § 752 (2018) (stating that "[a]ll civil actions shall be commenced within 6 years after the cause of action accrues . . . except as otherwise specially provided"). Spectrum filed this interlocutory appeal challenging the court's denial of its motion to dismiss. See 14 M.R.S. § 1851 (2018).

         II. DISCUSSION

         [¶6] Before we can consider the merits of Spectrum's contentions on appeal, we must first address whether those ...


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