Hagyard Veterinarians Preparing Counterclaim Against Owner/Trainer, Question Motives In Radiograph Suit

Three Central Kentucky equine surgeons are questioning the motives of an Illinois owner/trainer who filed a class-action civil suit against them in late 2018 over misdated radiographs, according to documents filed in Fayette Circuit Court last week. Drs. Michael Hore, Michael Spirito, Dwayne Rodgerson and Robert Hunt entered motions for leave to file a counter-claim against Tom Swearingen. Hunt also filed a motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint against him. Hore, Spirito, and Rodgerson are also requesting Swearingen pay their legal fees associated with work their attorneys have put into the case so far.

If Hore, Spirito and Rodgerson are permitted to file a counter-claim, it will include civil counts of malicious prosecution, abuse of process and punitive damages against Swearingen.

Swearingen brought a class-action suit against Hagyard Equine Medical Institute and surgeons Hore, Spirito, Rodgerson and Hunt individually, as well as Lexington-based CPA/consulting firm Dean Dorton Allen Ford and as many as 100 unidentified co-defendants who sold horses at Keeneland over a number of years. The basis for his suit was a series of admissions by the surgeons that they had misdated radiographs bound for the repository at the auction’s public sales.

In his initial complaint, Swearingen stated he was part of a large class of people who were negatively impacted by the veterinarians’ misdating of radiographic images, and that he would not have purchased horses at the sales had he been aware the dates on the repository images were inaccurate. But documents show that while Swearingen has spoken to a handful of others interested in joining the suit, his attorneys have had no serious inquiries from other potential plaintiffs claiming to be negatively impacted by the misdating.

Further, Swearingen said he had not considered filing suit against Hagyard veterinarians or the hospital until he received a phone call from Kentucky horseman Hal Snowden, and subsequent phone calls from attorney Mason Miller.

Miller was co-counsel for three associate veterinarians who sued Hagyard in a separate case, claiming the hospital failed to uphold a contract to allow them to become shareholders in the company. That action was settled out of court after a judge granted the associate veterinarians’ motion for summary judgment against the clinic. This issue of radiograph misdating came out in the course of the contracts case, as the three associate veterinarians claimed their unwillingness to engage in the practice impacted their opportunity to become partners in the veterinary hospital. Miller now represents Swearingen in this action, which was filed before the conclusion of the contracts case.

In a Feb. 11 deposition, Swearingen admitted some of the facts set forth in his complaint against Hagyard and its surgeons were false. Swearingen described himself as having relied upon radiographs in the repository to purchase horses, but admitted under questioning he in fact had never sent a veterinarian to review those radiographs before any of his purchases, nor had he ever seen those radiographic images himself. He did emphasize that he looked at the radiograph reports made available by consignors detailing the contents of those radiographs.

Under questioning by attorney Mike Casey, representing Hore, Spirito, and Rodgerson, Swearingen was asked whether Swearingen had reviewed the complaint filed on his behalf by his attorneys. Swearingen admitted that he had, and that it contained false statements.

“And it still got filed that way. Is that embarrassing to you?” Casey asked.

“Yes,” answered Swearingen.

Veterinarians and attorneys have repeatedly discouraged buyers from relying exclusively on reports furnished by consignors, pointing out those reports aren’t designed to be read by buyers, who may have various tolerance levels for different radiographic findings.

Further, Swearingen admitted he did not know whether any of the repository radiographs for the horses he purchased were actually taken by Hagyard veterinarians.

Swearingen’s complaint also alleged that the value of the horses he purchased may have been negatively impacted by the misdating, particularly if the horse incurred an injury between the actual taking of a radiograph and the false date attributed to the image. But his deposition revealed that, in many cases, he successfully sold horses to clients for the same price he paid at sale, sometimes days after the auction.

“Mr. Swearingen’s testimony speaks for itself,” Casey told the Paulick Report. “The complaint was full of false statements and it should never have been filed.  It does not get any clearer than that.”

Swearingen and his attorneys have yet to respond to the motions, which are scheduled to be heard by a judge later this week. Efforts to reach Miller were not successful by press time.

The post Hagyard Veterinarians Preparing Counterclaim Against Owner/Trainer, Question Motives In Radiograph Suit appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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