Hughley v. McDermott

72 Md. App. 391, 530 A.2d 13 (1987)

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Hughley v. McDermott

Maryland Court of Special Appeals
72 Md. App. 391, 530 A.2d 13 (1987)

  • Written by Nicole Gray , JD

Facts

David E. Hughley (plaintiff) sued Michael T. McDermott (defendant) for defamation in a Prince George’s County circuit court after being terminated as a park-police-officer trainee due to McDermott’s recommendation. Hughley was accepted to the training academy with the promise that he would be accepted as a park police officer upon successful completion of training and 12 months of probation. While in training, candidates were required to complete horse-mounted training. However, due to childhood trauma, Hughley had a fear of horses that caused him anxiety and manifested physical symptoms including stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Hughley participated in the training, except for once when he felt too ill to report to work, but he made higher-ups aware of his condition. Hughley was encouraged to continue the training, although his symptoms persisted, so he sought medical treatment from group doctors; one, a psychiatrist, wrote a letter on Hughley’s behalf recommending that he be excused from the training. After receiving the letter, a lieutenant referred Hughley to McDermott for examination. McDermott met with Hughley for approximately 30 minutes and concluded the meeting by affirming Hughley’s phobia and quashing the notion that had been suggested by higher-ups that Hughley was simply insubordinate. McDermott promised to provide Hughley a copy of his diagnosis. However, prior to the diagnosis, a meeting was convened including Hughley, McDermott, the lieutenant, and a representative from the police union. In the meeting, McDermott confirmed Hughley’s phobia, however he alleged that Hughley had agreed to undergo hypnotherapy for treatment. Hughley had not agreed to any treatments and argued with McDermott on the point briefly before the meeting was abruptly terminated. Shortly after the meeting, McDermott provided his diagnosis, then claiming that Hughley’s fear was fabricated and his symptoms were exaggerated to avoid training. McDermott called Hughley’s behavior “malingering” and noted that his diagnosis was based on Hughley’s unwillingness to participate in recommended treatment. In a follow-up, McDermott expressed the opinion that Hughley’s level of manipulation indicated a potentially pathological character and, in his experience, only criminals lied so brazenly. Hughley was notified that he would be fired shortly after McDermott’s diagnosis. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of McDermott. Hughley appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Karwacki, J.)

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