Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health excluded from ex-administrator’s lawsuit against APD

  • Timothy Martin

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/20/2020 9:03:27 PM
Modified: 3/20/2020 9:03:14 PM

CONCORD — A federal judge has determined Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health cannot be held responsible in a lawsuit filed by the former administrator of The Woodlands retirement community in Lebanon who is asserting malicious termination.

In an order dated March 3, U.S. District Court Judge Landya McCafferty dismissed D-HH from the suit, writing that the corporation is not responsible for any wrongdoing committed by its subsidiary, Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital, where The Woodlands is based.

The order also dismissed APD’s president Susan Mooney from the lawsuit and dismissed one claim against APD.

The decision means only three claims against the hospital will go forward out of the original 13-page lawsuit, which was filed by former administrator Timothy Martin in April, more than a year after he was fired in February 2018.

At the center of the complaint is a memo that Mooney sent to over 100 people at the Woodlands, and Harvest Hill, a neighboring assisted living facility, saying Martin was fired “because of a pattern of unprofessional conduct.” The Valley News, which obtained a copy of the memo, reported on his firing and on interviews with former Woodlands employees who said they had complained about physical contact initiated by Martin.

In his lawsuit, Martin blamed APD and D-HH for publicly disclosing information that should have been private, defaming him and breaching his contract. The sole claim against Mooney argued that she intentionally tried to cause him emotional harm by sending the memo.

Martin said in the suit that the wording of the memo wrongly led readers to believe the “conduct” referred to sexual harassment or assault. He also wrote that his career has been harmed by the memo becoming public.

The defendants pushed back, filing a response last summer that said APD and Mooney were within their right to disclose the information on Martin’s firing to the residents and that D-HH should not be named as a defendant simply because it oversees APD.

In her order this month, McCafferty agreed with the defendants that D-HH should not be held responsible. She also dismissed the claim against Mooney, saying that the hospital president’s decision to send the memo, did “not rise to the level of extreme and outrageous conduct.”

She dismissed the defamation claim, saying that there’s no evidence the information contained in the memo is false.

But the judge declined to dismiss the claims of public disclosure of private facts and “intrusion on seclusion.” She wrote that — even though Mooney did not publicize the memo — she sent it to so many residents that, “it was foreseeable and predictable that one of them would disclose the memo to the press.”

On top of that, McCafferty ruled that APD hasn’t given any reason for why the circumstances surrounding Martin’s termination are a “public matter,” even for residents of the assisted living facilities.

“There appears to be no reason that the residents of The Woodlands needed to know anything more than the fact that Martin had been replaced,” the order read.

McCafferty also declined to dismiss a breach of contract claim, saying that the hospital might have violated their own personnel policy by sharing information from Martin’s personnel file in the memo.

“We’re very pleased (by the order),” Martin’s attorney, Charles Douglas, said of the judge’s ruling. He said the two counts that were dismissed were not as strong as the remaining claims, and that he only included D-HH in the suit out of an “excess of caution.”

He said the decision to dismiss D-HH “doesn’t change a thing” regarding the eventual outcome of the lawsuit.

Martin declined to comment when reached by phone Thursday. Messages to the attorney for APD and D-HH were not returned.

Following the order, McCafferty agreed to reschedule the trial for the case in March 2021.

Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.

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