Mueller v. Penobscot Valley Hosp.

CourtSupreme Judicial Court of Maine (US)
Citation538 A.2d 294
Parties3 IER Cases 265 Mark S. MUELLER v. PENOBSCOT VALLEY HOSPITAL, et al.
Decision Date08 March 1988

Page 294

538 A.2d 294
3 IER Cases 265
Supreme Judicial Court of Maine.
Argued Nov. 4, 1987.
Decided March 8, 1988.

Page 295

Charles W. March (orally), Stephen P. Sunenblick, Sunenblick, Fontaine & Reben, Portland, for plaintiff.

George Z. Singal (orally), Gross, Minsky, Mogul & Singal, Bangor, for Hospital.

Arlyn H. Weeks (orally) Preti, Flaherty, Beliveau & Pachios, Portland, for Kirley.

William R. Stokes (orally), Asst. Atty. Gen., Augusta, amicus curiae.


SCOLNIK, Justice.

Plaintiff, Mark Mueller, appeals from a judgment of the Superior Court, Penobscot County, in favor of the defendants, Penobscot Valley Hospital and Francis P. Kirley. On appeal plaintiff argues that the Superior Court erred in granting summary judgment based on plaintiff's failure to comply with the Maine Tort Claims Act's 180-day notice provision (14 M.R.S.A. § 8107 (1980)) because the provision is inapplicable to his tort action against defendant Kirley and to his claims against both defendants for breach of contract and deprivation of liberty under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1981). We affirm the judgment in part and vacate and remand it in part.


From October of 1973 until August of 1978, Mark Mueller worked as a certified nurse anesthetist at Penobscot Valley Hospital (P.V.H.). In 1978, a dispute developed between Mueller and P.V.H. concerning Mueller's alleged insubordination, billing practices and record-keeping with regard to pharmaceuticals. P.V.H. suspended Mueller effective August 9, 1978, and shortly thereafter he resigned. On October 10, 1978, the plaintiff and P.V.H.'s administrator

Page 296

signed a "mutual release" from all claims and causes of action involving the plaintiff's departure from P.V.H. In a letter dated September 20, 1978, P.V.H.'s attorney notified plaintiff's attorney that the hospital would not mention the circumstances surrounding plaintiff's termination in any employment recommendation, and would purge his file of references to those events.

In November 1983, plaintiff took a job at St. Anthony's Hospital in Alton, Illinois, as a nurse anesthetist. As part of the employment process he signed an "information release" that authorized the recipient to give St. Anthony's any information concerning the plaintiff's professional and ethical qualifications, competence and personal character. A request for information was sent by St. Anthony's to P.V.H. and in a letter dated December 14, 1983, Kirley, then administrator of P.V.H., responded stating that "I cannot recommend Mr. Mueller due to his questionable character and dishonest behavior during his term at our institution." Shortly after St. Anthony's receipt of the unfavorable letter of recommendation, the plaintiff was relieved of his position. He also alleges that his mother telephoned Kirley on or about December 27, 1983, seeking an employment reference and was told that the plaintiff's file contained something concerning drugs, but that the matter was resolved out of court.

On December 9, 1985, almost two years later, the plaintiff commenced this action. His amended complaint against defendants P.V.H. and Kirley 1 contains allegations of slander (Count I); tortious interference with an advantageous business relationship (Count II); breach of contract (Count III); and deprivation of liberty without due process of law premised upon 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1981) (Count IV). Motions by both defendants for summary judgment on all counts were granted by the Superior Court in a written order dated January 16, 1987, on the ground that the plaintiff had failed to file a notice of claim within the 180-day period as required under the Maine Tort Claims Act (14 M.R.S.A. § 8107 (1980)). 2 It is from this order that the plaintiff appeals.


The first issue raised by the plaintiff on appeal is whether the notice provisions of the Maine Tort Claims Act (14 M.R.S.A. § 8107 (1980)), apply to Kirley for the causes of action sounding in tort alleged in Counts I and II of the amended complaint. Relevant portions of the notice provisions provide as follows:

1. Notice requirements for filing. Within 180 days after a cause of action against a governmental entity accrues, or at a later time within the limits of section 8110, when a claimant shows good cause why notice could not have reasonably been filed within the 180-day limit, a claimant or his personal representative shall file a written notice ...


4. Substantial notice compliance required. No claim or action shall be commenced against a governmental entity or employee in the Superior Court unless the foregoing notice provisions are substantially complied with.

14 M.R.S.A. § 8107(1), (4) (1980).

There is no question that P.V.H. is a "governmental entity" and Kirley a "governmental employee" as the terms are defined in 14 M.R.S.A. § 8102(1), (2) (1980 & Supp.1987). It is also undisputed that the plaintiff provided no notice of his claims to

Page 297

P.V.H. or Kirley within 180 days of his termination from St. Anthony's Hospital. The plaintiff argues, however, that since Kirley enjoys no immunity under either common law or the Maine Tort Claims Act, the Act's notice requirements are inapplicable to the tort claims against Kirley as an individual. The plaintiff also maintains that the Act's notice provisions do not apply to his tort claims against Kirley because such notice is required only when the governmental entity is not immune from tort liability itself, or may be held vicariously liable for an employee's conduct.

We easily reject plaintiff's arguments in light of our recent decision in Darling v. Augusta Mental Health Institute, 535 A.2d 421 (Me.1987). In Darling we stated that the Tort Claims Act reflects the state's significant interest in regulating the conditions under which suit can be brought against governmental employees. Id. at 429. We found that § 8107 is unambiguous in its requirement that a claimant notify a governmental entity of a claim against its employee for conduct within the scope of his employment even though no claim is made against the entity itself. Id. at 430; see also Warren v. Nolan, 536 A.2d 1134 (Me.1988). Consequently, contrary to the plaintiff's arguments, the applicability of the Tort Claims Act's notice requirements to tort claims against a governmental employee is not dependent upon either the immunity of the governmental entity or the employee, or the entity's vicarious liability for the employee's conduct. 3 Since the plaintiff provided no notice to P.V.H. of his tort claims within the 180 days required by the Act, the Superior Court correctly entered summary judgment in favor of the defendants on the tort claims set forth in Counts I and II of the plaintiff's complaint.

The second issue raised by the plaintiff is whether the Superior Court erred in granting summary judgment on Counts III and IV of the plaintiff's complaint. The Superior Court's order granting summary judgment to the defendants was grounded solely on the plaintiff's failure to file a timely notice of claim as required by the Tort Claims Act in 14 M.R.S.A. § 8107. The court stated that the plaintiff's failure to file the required notice barred its examination of the substantive issues...

To continue reading

Request your trial
34 cases
  • Gomes v. University of Maine System, No. CIV. 03-123-B-W.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Court (Maine)
    • 23 Febrero 2004
    ...Beliveau & Pachios v. Ayotte, 606 A.2d 780 (Me.1992); Polley v. Atwell, 581 A.2d 410 (Me.1990); Mueller v. Penobscot Valley Hospital, 538 A.2d 294 (Me.1988). To sustain a motion to dismiss, the defendant must demonstrate that there is no set of facts which would entitle the plaintiff to rel......
  • Clifford v. Mainegeneral Med. Ctr., Docket No. Ken–13–71.
    • United States
    • Supreme Judicial Court of Maine (US)
    • 22 Abril 2014 applied to a governmental entity, to apply “only to actions arising in tort” against the entity. Mueller v. Penobscot Valley Hosp., 538 A.2d 294, 297–98 (Me.1988). We held that the MTCA, read as a whole, “was not intended to apply to causes of action for breach of contract” or to “civil ......
  • Cayer v. Town of Madawaska, Civil Action CV-18-0135
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Maine
    • 11 Enero 2022
    ...the claim may not proceed. 14 M.R.S. §§ 8107, 8110; Cushman v. Tilton, 652 A.2d 650, 651 (Me. 1995); Mueller v. Penobscot Valley Hosp., 538 A.2d 294, 297 (Me. 1988). In general, "a cause of action accrues when a plaintiff receive[s] judicially recognized injury." McLaughlin v. Superintendin......
  • Krennerich v. Inhabitants of Town of Bristol, Civil No. 95-352-P-C.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Court (Maine)
    • 24 Octubre 1996
    ...or liberty interest. Carey v. Piphus, 435 U.S. 247, 259, 98 S.Ct. 1042, 1050, 55 L.Ed.2d 252 (1978); Mueller v. Penobscot Valley Hosp., 538 A.2d 294, 300 (Me.1988). In Maine a property interest in continued employment may be established by contract, statute, or by proof of an objectively re......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT