Three veterinarians suing their former employer won a victory in Fayette Circuit Court in Lexington, Ky., when the judge presiding over the case entered an order for partial summary judgement in favor of the plaintiffs.
Judge John Reynolds found that a valid contract existed between Drs. Rocky Mason, Christopher Smith and Patrick Ford and Hagyard-Davidson-McGee to purchase shares in Hagyard Equine Medical Institute and its associated pharmacy.
The same judge ruled last year that the non-compete agreements the three plaintiffs signed at the outset of their employment were void.
“Hagyard is disappointed in the ruling and believes the ruling is incorrect,” said Keith Moorman, one of the attorneys representing the hospital. “Hagyard remains confident that it will ultimately prevail on all of the claims in the case.”
Hagyard has consistently denied the plaintiffs' claims.
The plaintiffs also brought suit against Las-Vegas based Mixed Animal Veterinary Associates of North America (MAVANA), claiming an impending merger between Hagyard and MAVANA was the cause for existing partners' unwillingness to follow through with promises they would become shareholders.
The Hagyard/MAVANA deal, announced Jan. 19, 2018, added Hagyard to a group of 22 mixed animal, equine, and companion animal practices. According to its website, MAVANA is designed to centralize purchasing, human resources, and finance in order to improve value and liquidity for practice shareholders.
The partial summary judgment does not apply to MAVANA's role in the case. It also does not address compensation. Both those issues are set to be taken up at a jury trial, which is scheduled to begin Oct. 21.
Hagyard remains in the midst of a class action civil suit brought in Fayette Circuit Court by owner/trainer Tom Swearingen. Swearingen's claims are based upon the misdating of Thoroughbred auction radiographs, which was revealed during the course of the contracts case brought by Mason, Smith, and Ford. Some Hagyard veterinarians later admitted to the Kentucky Board of Veterinary Examiners that they had intentionally forward-dated radiographs taken of horses prior to public auction in order to place those images in the timeframe required by public auction companies, while actually taking them earlier. Swearingen claims that if properly dated, the radiographs on horses he purchased from public auction in Kentucky would have been ineligible to appear in the repository and therefore he would not have purchased the horses.
“Hagyard Equine Medical Institute believes the lawsuit filed Thursday in Fayette Circuit Court regarding several of Hagyard's veterinarians is without merit and will demonstrate it is based on a fundamental misrepresentation of the facts,” read a statement from the hospital issued at the time of the lawsuit's filing. “We will vigorously address the misrepresentations and claims made in the suit through the proper legal channels.”
Judge Reynolds will hear a motion by Hagyard to dismiss that suit at the end of the month.
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