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Faure v. Community Health Systems Professional Services Corp.

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

August 17, 2017

JOHN FAURE, as Personal Representative for the Wrongful Death Estate of GLORIA QUIMBEY, Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMUNITY HEALTH SYSTEMS PROFESSIONAL SERVICES CORPORATION, LAS CRUCES MEDICAL CENTER, LLC, doing business as Mountain View Regional Medical Center, ACCOUNTABLE HEALTHCARE STAFFING, INC., ACCOUNTABLE HEALTHCARE HOLDINGS CORPORATION, MEDASSETS WORKFORCE SOLUTIONS, RONALD LALONDE, AFFILION, LLC, and JOEL MICHAEL JONES, Dr., Defendants, and LAS CRUCES MEDICAL CENTER, LLC, Cross Claimant,
v.
ACCOUNTABLE HEALTHCARE HOLDINGS CORPORATION, ACCOUNTABLE HEALTHCARE STAFFING, INC., and MEDASSETS WORKFORCE SOLUTIONS, Cross Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         This matter comes before the Court upon Defendant CHSPSC, LLC's (“Defendant CHSPSC”), f/k/a Community Health Systems Professional Services Corporation, Motion for Summary Judgment, filed October 28, 2016. (Doc. 246). Plaintiff John Faure (“Plaintiff”), as personal representative for the estate of Gloria Quimbey, filed a response on November 14, 2016, and Defendant CHSPSC filed a reply on December 1, 2016. (Doc. 266, 283). Defendant CHSPSC also submitted a Notice of Supplemental Authority Regarding CHSPSC, LLC's Motion for Summary Judgment on April 25, 2017, to which Plaintiff responded on May 2, 2017. (Docs. 381, 388). Having read the motions, the accompanying briefs, and relevant law, the Court GRANTS Defendant CHSPSC's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. Background

         This is a wrongful death lawsuit concerning the death of Gloria Quimbey (“Ms. Quimbey”). Plaintiff originally filed his Complaint for Wrongful Death, Negligence, Misrepresentation, and Punitive Damages (“Complaint”) on May 9, 2014, in the First Judicial District Court of the State of New Mexico. (Doc. 1-1). Defendant Las Cruces Medical Center, LLC, d/b/a Mountain View Regional Medical Center (“MVRMC”), removed the case to this Court on June 17, 2014. (Doc. 1).

         The Complaint alleges six counts. Count I is a wrongful death claim against all defendants under the New Mexico Wrongful Death Act, NMSA 1978, § 41-2-1 (Rep. Pamp. 1996). (Doc. 1-1) at 14. Count II is a negligence claim against Community Health Systems Professional Services Corporation and MVRMC Defendants (together, “CHS Defendants”). Id. at 14-20. Count III is a negligence claim against Accountable Healthcare Staffing, Inc., Accountable Healthcare Holdings Corporation, MedAssets Workforce Solutions, and Ronald Lalonde (“AHS Defendants”). Id. at 20-22. Count IV is a negligence claim against Affilion, LLC and Dr. Joel Michael Jones (“Affilion Defendants”). Id. at 22-24. Count V is a claim for negligent or intentional misrepresentation against CHS Defendants. Id. at 24-26. Finally, Count VI is a claim for punitive damages against all defendants. Id. at 26. Defendant CHSPSC now moves for summary judgment on all claims against it.

         II. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party shows “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Once the moving party meets its initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Schneider v. City of Grand Junction Police Dep't, 717 F.3d 760, 767 (10th Cir. 2013). A dispute over a material fact is “genuine” only if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The Court views the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draws all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor. Tabor v. Hilti, Inc., 703 F.3d 1206, 1215 (10th Cir. 2013).

         III. Facts and Reasonable Inferences Viewed in the Light Most Favorable to Plaintiff[1]

         Defendant CHSPSC and MVRMC are parties to a Management Agreement, through which Defendant CHSPSC provides consulting services to MVRMC.[2] (Doc. 246-1) at 2, ¶ 6. The Management Agreement states that it creates a relationship of a principal (MVRMC) and agent (Defendant CHSPSC). Id. at 4. Defendant CHSPSC and MVRMC “expressly disclaim any intent to jointly form a partnership or to become joint venturers in the operation of [MVRMC] by virtue of the execution of [the Management] Agreement.” Id. For its consulting work, Defendant CHSPSC receives a monthly management fee. Id. at 13.

         Pursuant to the Management Agreement, Defendant CHSPSC agreed to (1) draft guidelines, policies, procedures, and other form documents; (2) help ensure that MVRMC is operated in accordance with compliance programs; (3) provide assistance in the identification, recruitment, and evaluation of management personnel; and (4) administer through an affiliate of a cash management program. Id. at 5-6. Defendant CHSPSC also makes several additional services available to MVRMC, including: (1) accounting; (2) acquisitions and development; (3) ancillary services; (4) clinical services; (5) tax services; (6) finance and treasury policies and procedures; (7) division operations; (8) health information management; (9) human resources; (10) information services; (11) legal services; (12) management care; (13) marketing; (14) materials management; (15) medical staff development; (16) operations and operations support; (17) patient finance services; (18) physician practice support; (19) quality and resource management; (20) revenue management; and (21) risk management, insurance, and employee safety. Id. at 6-9.

         The Management Agreement specifically states that “[u]nder no circumstance's shall [Defendant CHSPSC] be responsible for any medical, clinical or professional matters. [Defendant CHSPSC] may, however, consult with [MVRMC], at [MVRMC]'s request, and make recommendations concerning such matters.” Id. at 5. With regard to the case at bar, Defendant CHSPSC did not “make any clinical decisions” and was not involved in providing medical care to Ms. Quimbey. (Doc. 246-2) at 342:19-343:7; (Doc. 246-3) at 125:11-15. Defendant CHSPSC does not employ any of the MVRMC staff that treated Ms. Quimbey, including Dr. Joel Michael Jones (“Dr. Jones”) and Nurse Ronald Lalonde (“Mr. Lalonde”).[3](Doc. 246-1) at 8, ¶ 2.15; (Doc. 246-3) at 124:9-12; (Doc. 246-8) at 91:10-21. Per the Management Agreement, Defendant CHSPSC offered its services to help in the recruitment of physicians, but “the responsibility for verifying the credentials and the determination of what privileges, if any, to be granted to any physician . . . rest[ed] solely with [MVRMC's] medical staff and board of trustees.” (Doc. 246-1) at 8, ¶ 2.15.

         IV. Discussion

         Defendant CHSPSC moves for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims against it. Although Plaintiff brings several counts against Defendant CHSPSC in the Complaint, in his response to the Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff alleges that he “need not demonstrate joint venture, an employment relationship, or negligent and intentional misrepresentation in order to establish that [Defendant] CHSPSC owed a legal duty to Mrs. Quimbey.” (Doc. 266) at 13. Instead, Plaintiff alleges that “the duty owed here arises under ordinary negligence principles.” Id. In the alternative, Plaintiff asks the Court to defer consideration of the Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d). Id. at 2.

         a. Duty Owed to Ms. Quimbey

         To prevail on a negligence claim under New Mexico law, a plaintiff must show the existence of a duty, a breach of that duty, which is based upon a standard of reasonable care, and that the breach was the proximate cause of plaintiff's injuries. Herrera v. Quality Pontiac, 2003-NMSC-018, ¶ 6, 134 N.M. 43. The existence of a duty is a question of law for the court; whereas, proximate cause is generally a question of fact for a jury. Id. at ¶¶ 7-8 (internal citations omitted). The determination of whether a duty exists is based on policy considerations, including “reference to legal precedent, statutes, and other principles of ...


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