Attorney Behavior, Sale Of Yearling At Issue In New Hagyard Civil Filings

The saga of Hagyard veterinarians in Fayette County Circuit Court continues with new accusations against attorneys and vets alike. Attorneys in one case are now the subject of a motion for sanctions, while a new civil case highlights a dispute over a six-figure horse at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

After Judge Julie M. Goodman dismissed a civil complaint from owner/breeder Tom Swearingen against Hagyard Davidson McGee Associates, four Hagyard surgeons, and Lexington accounting/consulting firm Dean Dorton Allen Ford last month, several of those defendants are fighting back against Swearingen’s lawyers.

Drs. Hore, Spirito, Rodgerson and Hunt, who were named as individuals in the Swearingen suit, say they want the court to issue sanctions against Swearingen attorneys Mason Miller and Bill Rambicure, who they claim failed to do adequate research into the facts of the case before filing, improperly filed the case, made false statements in numerous court documents, continued the lawsuit after learning the allegations were false, deceived the court and filed the action to “advance an improper personal agenda.”

Swearingen’s case had been based upon the idea that an unknown number of radiographs in the repository at public auction were misdated by Hagyard veterinarians, and had Swearingen known of the misdating, he never would have purchased horses there. Goodman’s ruling focused on an eventual admission by Swearingen that he never examined radiographs personally, and instead relied on radiograph reports summarizing the x-rays. Questions were raised by defense attorneys about whether Swearingen had been recruited to bring the suit.

The request for sanctions accuses the attorneys, particularly Miller, of forging ahead with a complaint they knew or should have known was false, and even of manipulating an affidavit by Swearingen which appeared to backtrack on earlier testimony and shield his attorneys from the appearance of wrongdoing.

In a document filed by attorney Mike Casey in late March, the Hagyard veterinarians seek an unspecified amount of civil sanctions. Documents from the individual veterinarians’ attorneys suggest the total amount of legal fees incurred thus far exceeds $120,000.

Dean Dorton has joined in the motion for sanctions.

Also in late March, Miller filed a notice he was appealing four orders from Judge Goodman, including her order dismissing the Swearingen case.

Meanwhile, Miller and Rambicure are representing another plaintiff in a new suit against Hagyard. Dr. Ashley Craig Hymer, who has been a veterinarian at the clinic since beginning as an intern in 2012, is suing the clinic for what she says is its failure to uphold a 2014 employment contract with her. Craig claims that like Drs. Rocky Mason, Christopher Smith and Patrick Ford, who were plaintiffs in a 2017 case against Hagyard, she was promised a seven-year track to becoming a partner in the clinic. She was not ultimately offered the partnership deal she said she was promised.

Craig says she was concerned by the ethical ramifications of radiograph misdating that was revealed in the Mason et al case. Hagyard partners had met with associate veterinarians after media attention on the issue and assured them steps were being taken to prevent that behavior from recurring.

In September 2019, Craig claims there came “the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.” Craig’s complaint says she became aware of a dispute at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale that made her rethink her comfort level with the clinic’s ethical environment.

According to Craig, Hagyard surgeon Dr. Dwayne Rodgerson wrote a radiograph report for a set of images in the repository for Hip 171, a colt by Quality Road out of the Dixie Union mare Union City. Fellow Hagyard surgeon Dr. True Baker was hired to review the images on behalf of the high bidder on the colt. Baker allegedly found a significant difference between the images and the report, signed by Rodgerson, which noted “a slight opacity on the horse’s stifle.”

Baker “concluded instead that there was a significant fracture of the horse’s stifle, something far more significant than a mere ‘opacity,’ and something that properly warranted the buyer’s rejection of this horse.”

According to Keeneland sales records, the horse was consigned by Eaton Sales and hammered for $400,000 to Tom Durant.

“Upon information and belief, there were reportedly heated discussions between Drs. Rodgerson and Baker regarding their differing interpretations of the same set of pre-sale x-rays, with Dr. Rodgerson reportedly trying to exert pressure on Dr. Baker to change his opinion or otherwise convince his client to go through with the purchase of this horse, and Dr. Baker refusing to do so,” Craig’s complaint reads.

The complaint states the sale went to a three-person arbitration panel of veterinarians, per Keeneland’s conditions of sale. One veterinarian sided with Rodgerson, and the other two sided with Baker.

Craig’s claims include two counts of declaratory judgment, breach of express contract, breach of implied covenants of good faith and fair dealing, and collateral estoppel claims.

Hagyard denies Craig’s claims, saying her failure to achieve partnership was due to “a lack of holding leadership roles in HDM, sub-standard business production, and HR-related issues.” It also points out the horse in question is, to the clinic’s knowledge, in training in Florida and doing well. The clinic’s response characterized the radiograph dispute as a difference in professional opinion.

The clinic filed a counterclaim against Craig, saying she is in breach of agreements in her employment contracts with relation to non-compete and non-solicitation causes. Craig resigned from Hagyard in January. In October 2019, Craig registered Homeplace Veterinary Service LLC with the Kentucky Secretary of State.

The post Attorney Behavior, Sale Of Yearling At Issue In New Hagyard Civil Filings appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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