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Estate of Cummings v. United States

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

January 25, 2017

ESTATE OF VERA CUMMINGS, by and through Personal Representative, Elicia Montoya, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et. al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR LACK OF SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION AND AMENDED[1]ORDER REMANDING STATE CLAIMS TO NEW MEXICO STATE COURT

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction, filed January 19, 2017 (Doc. 207) by Defendant Las Cruces Medical Center, LLC, d/b/a MountainView Regional Medical Center (“MountainView” or “Defendant” for purposes of this Order). Having reviewed the parties' briefs and applicable law, the Court finds that the motion must be denied because the Court has no subject matter jurisdiction to consider the merits of the motion.[2] Additionally, the Court sua sponte amends its previous Order remanding state claims to state court to include other supplemental claims that had been inadvertently overlooked in the Court's previous remand order to state court.

         BACKGROUND

         The underlying case is a medical negligence case allegedly resulting in wrongful death. It was filed in January of 2012 in the First Judicial District Court, County of Santa Fe, asserting state claims brought under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act. It was finally resolved more than four years later on August 31, 2016, following an appeal to the Tenth Circuit and a remand of supplemental state claims to state court. This case has a tortuous procedural history which is available for review in detail in various pleadings, see, e.g., Docs. 60, 83, 160, & 196. The Court includes the salient procedural facts here.

         I. Facts Prior Appeal to Tenth Circuit

         Defendants removed the case to federal court on January 25, 2012 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §233 (cases filed against commissioned officers or employees).[3] The United States (the “Government”) then moved to dismiss claims against the individual physician-defendants on the ground that the New Mexico Tort Claims Act was inapplicable and that Plaintiff (or “the Estate”) failed to exhaust administrative remedies under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”). On June 4, 2013, U.S. District Judge Robert C. Brack, the presiding district judge over the case at that time, concluded that the FTCA was Plaintiff's exclusive remedy against the individual doctors, but that the record was not fully developed on discovery to determine whether Plaintiff had exhausted administrative remedies under the FTCA. Doc. 83.

         Also soon after the case was removed, Defendant Community Health Systems, Inc. (“CHSI”) moved to dissolve the state court order denying a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. On September 6, 2012, Judge Brack, exercising supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims against CHSI concluded that there was no personal jurisdiction over CHSI. Doc. 60 at 4-10.

         Discovery was especially prickly in this case. On August 5, 2014, the undersigned (who was reassigned the case on July 30, 2014), exercising supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims against MountainView, awarded summary judgment to MountainView in part because of Plaintiff's failure of proof related to the expert disclosure deadline. Doc. 160 at 13.

         On December 1, 2014, the Government filed a supplemental motion to dismiss revisiting the administrative exhaustion issue, but this time armed with additional information following discovery. This Court granted the motion on February 10, 2015, concluding that there was no subject matter jurisdiction over the case. The Order dismissed Plaintiff's complaint with prejudice and denied remaining dispositive motions as moot. Doc. 196. A Rule 58 Judgment was also entered. Doc. 197.

         II. Facts Related to Appeal

         The Estate appealed the district court's Order to the Tenth Circuit, including the order dismissing CHSI for lack of personal jurisdiction. However, as a result of the mediation process on appeal, the parties stipulated to its dismissal on appeal, and the Tenth Circuit entered an order dismissing the claim against CHSI with prejudice. Doc. 211, Ex. E.[4]

         In an Order and Judgment dated June 7, 2016, the Tenth Circuit affirmed this Court's dismissal of claims against the Government, but vacated its rulings against MountainView with instructions to remand the case to state court, finding that this Court had no jurisdiction to exercise supplemental jurisdiction where there was no federal jurisdiction to begin with:

If a district court dismisses the federal claims on the merits, it can as a matter of discretion exercise supplemental jurisdiction [under 28 U.S.C. §1367(a)]. But when a district court dismisses the federal claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, it lacks such discretion and must dismiss the supplemental claims without prejudice.

Doc. 203 (USCA Mandate; see Estate of Vera Cummings by and through Personal Representative Elicia Montoya v. United States of America; Mountain View Regional Medical Center, No. 15-2044 (10th Cir. June 24, 2016) (“Tenth Circuit Order and Judgment”). The final paragraph in the Order and Judgment affirmed this Court's dismissal of the federal claims, and stated that “[t]he district court's rulings on the supplemental claims against Mountain View are VACATED with instructions to the district court to remand to New Mexico state court. Doc. 203 at 14 (Tenth Circuit Order & Judgment) (emphasis added).

         On August 31, 2016, following the mandate from the Tenth Circuit Order and Judgment, this Court entered an Order Remanding State ...


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