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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Maine Supreme Court affirms dismissal of most of nurse's case but allows defamation claim to proceed

State Supreme Court

By Gabriel Neves | Nov 1, 2018

PORTLAND, Maine (Legal Newsline) – The Maine Supreme Court has mostly affirmed the dismissal of a nurse practitioner's case she filed after she was not hired by a hospital.

Justice Jeffrey Hjelm, on the panel of the Maine Supreme Court, issued a 34-page ruling on Oct. 16, affirming the Cumberland County Superior Court decision in the lawsuit filed by Pamela Argereow against Dr. Verne Weisberg and Mercy Hospital. The Superior Court granted Weisburg's and Mercy's motions to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim.

The Supreme Court did change the lower court's ruling to dismiss the claims against Weisberg for defamation, slander per se and negligent inflection of emotional distress to dismiss the claims with prejudice.

Argereow sued the hospital and Weisberg on allegations of tortious interference with a prospective economic advantage, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, negligent infliction of emotional distress, slander per se, and violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act.

The issues allegedly started in 2014 when Argereow was working at Weisberg's office and she decided to look for employment at different places. The nurse practitioner stated in one of the applications that she had consented to a reprimand in 2005 because, per the ruling, "she falsely indicated on a checklist that during a medical procedure a surgical team had completed a step that it had not taken."

After testifying at an Unemployment Commission hearing regarding a claim against Weisberg filed by a former employee, Argereow was sent a letter with a job offer at Mercy Hospital, with pre-employment screening held Oct. 6, 2014, and a projected starting date of Nov. 10 of that year. 

Right after she told Weisberg she was leaving the job at the clinic, the doctor or someone on his behalf, allegedly contacted Mercy and informed that Argereow was, per the ruling, “incompetent in her professional practice."

Argereow alleged it was suggested by a Mercy representative that she withdraw her application, which she did on Nov. 13, after she attended a hearing with the chief of surgery to resolve credentialing issues.

Hjelm stated in his ruling that "Argereow’s claim sufficiently alleges that Weisberg intimidated Mercy Hospital into rescinding its job offer to Argereow."

Justices Andrew Mead, Ellen Gorman and Thomas Humfrey also concurred to the judgment. Justices Joseph Jabar and Donald Alexander dissented.

Maine Supreme Court case number 2018 ME140

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