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Rogers v. Indiana Supreme Court

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana

June 1, 2017

DEXTER ROGERS, Individually and as Personal Representative of the ESTATE OF CARRIE BELL ROGERS and as Personal Representative of the ESTATE OF PREMIUS ROGERS, Plaintiff,
v.
INDIANA SUPREME COURT, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          THERESA L. SPRINGMANN, CHIEF JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 31], filed by the Defendants Hon. Stephen H. David, Hon. Mark Massa, Hon. Robert D. Rucker, Hon. Loretta H. Rush, Hon. Geoffrey G. Slaughter and the Indiana Supreme Court (collectively “the Defendants”), pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The pro se Plaintiff, Dexter Rogers, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Carrie Bell Rogers, and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Premius Rogers, filed the Complaint [ECF No. 1] against the Defendants on October 17, 2016, in relation to a medical malpractice case in the Allen Superior Court. Also before the Court is the Plaintiff's Motion for a Hearing [ECF No. 51]. The Court will consider this Motion in conjunction with the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

         For the reasons stated in this Opinion and Order, the Court finds that the Plaintiff's claims against the Defendants are barred under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the Defendants are entitled to immunity, and the issues presented by the Plaintiff pose considerations making abstention appropriate. Accordingly, the Motion to Dismiss is granted, and the Plaintiff's pending Motions are termed as moot.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 728 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). Although pro se complaints are to be liberally construed and are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by lawyers, Luevano v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 722 F.3d 1014, 1027 (7th Cir. 2013), and a court may also consider facts alleged in a pro se plaintiff's brief in opposition to a motion to dismiss when considering the sufficiency of the complaint (if the facts are “consistent with the allegations in the complaint”), Smith v. Dart, 803 F.3d 304, 311 (7th Cir. 2015), the factual allegations in the complaint must nevertheless be enough to raise a right to relief above a speculative level, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Factual allegations are accepted as true at the pleading stage, but “allegations in the form of legal conclusions are insufficient to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.” Adams, 742 F.3d at 728 (internal citations omitted).

         COMPLAINT ALLEGATIONS

         The Plaintiff's mother, Carrie Bell Rogers, was a patient at Parkview Hospital, Inc. (“Parkview”) (formerly a defendant in this proceeding), and died on August 23, 2011. (Comp. ¶ 9; ECF No. 1.) The Plaintiff filed a claim with the Indiana Department of Insurance, as required by Indiana's Medical Malpractice Act, on June 25, 2013. (Id. ¶ 10.) The Plaintiff claims that Parkview was negligent in its care of his mother, resulting in her death. The Plaintiff also alleges that Parkview violated Title VI when Parkview allegedly denied care and treatment to his mother while she was a patient of the hospital. The Plaintiff alleges that the care his mother received was inferior to the care that white patients in similar circumstances received. (Id.)

         A discovery dispute arose between the Plaintiff and Parkview in the state court proceedings, which led the Plaintiff to file a motion to compel. (Id. ¶ 10-12.) The Allen County Superior Court granted the Plaintiff's motion and ordered Parkview to produce certain documents and make available its CEO, Michael Packnett, for a discovery deposition. (Id. Ex. A 88-89.) Parkview did not produce its CEO, incurred sanctions, and then appealed the Allen County Superior Court's decision to the Indiana Court of Appeals. (Id. ¶ 13.)

         The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the Allen Superior Court's decision and found that the Plaintiff's requested discovery deposition was outside the scope of Indiana Trial Rule 26.[1] (Id.) The Plaintiff claims that Parkview failed to justify its refusal to produce its CEO for a deposition. The Plaintiff also claims that the Court of Appeal's decision was erroneous and violated his due process rights. (Id. ¶ 34.)

         The Plaintiff then filed a petition to transfer, which the Indiana Supreme Court denied. (Id. ¶¶ 13, 34.) The Plaintiff alleges that the Indiana Supreme Court should have granted his petition to transfer, and that its failure to do so violated the Plaintiff's due process rights. (Id. ¶ 34.) After the Indiana Supreme Court denied the transfer, counsel for Parkview contacted John Whiteleather, Jr. (also a former defendant in this proceeding), whom the parties had selected as chairman of the medical review panel that was to review the Plaintiff's claim, and asked him to set a schedule for evidentiary submissions to the medical review panel. (Id. ¶ 46.) The Plaintiff claims he was not ready to proceed to the panel based on the Court of Appeals' decision holding that the Plaintiff was not entitled to the discovery he sought. (Id. ¶¶ 48-49.) The Plaintiff claims that Whiteleather attempted to move the panel proceedings forward because the Plaintiff is African-American and Parkview's counsel in the state court proceedings is white. (Id. ¶ 49.)

         The Plaintiff asks the Court to issue a judgment declaring that the acts of the Defendants were unlawful and unconstitutional, award him damages, restrain the Defendants from violating the Plaintiff's constitutional rights, and issue a preliminary injunction. (Id. 21.)

         ANALYSIS

         The Defendants assert that they are entitled to dismissal because: (1) the Plaintiff's claims are barred under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine (2) the Defendants are absolutely immune from suit and (3) the Younger doctrine requires that this Court abstain from deciding the Plaintiff's request for declaratory and injunctive relief. If the Court proceeds into an analysis of whether the Plaintiff's allegations state a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and/or 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, the Defendants argue that: (1) the Defendants are not “persons” subject to suit under § 1983 and are thus entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity and (2) the Plaintiff has failed to state a claim under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Court has addressed these arguments below.

         A. Rooker-Fe ...


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