Court Finds DHHS Not Liable in Lawsuit

Mar 3, 2017

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has found that the state’s Department of Health and Human Services can’t be held liable for selling a man’s property for less than half its value, letting another property fall into disrepair and euthanizing the man’s cat.

DHHS became the guardian and conservator of William Dean for about a year, after Dean was admitted to a psychiatric facility in 2012. A lawsuit claimed that DHHS breached its fiduciary duty to Dean, who has since passed away.

Cynthia Dill, an attorney representing Dean’s sister in the suit, says the Maine Supreme Judicial Court determined DHHS is immune from such lawsuits under state law.

“Even though the state has the authority to step in and become the guardian and apparently is supposed to be held to the same standards as a private guardian, there’s no way in the court system to sue the state if they breach their duty like in this case,” she says.

Dill says she hopes the Legislature will take action to allow recourse against the state in the future.