United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
PW, a minor, by DOMINQUE WOODSON, his mother and guardian, and DOMINQUE WOODSON, individually, Plaintiffs,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and ANONYMOUS HOSPITAL, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT
matter comes before the Court on Defendant United States of
America's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim
or Alternatively Summary Judgment [ECF No. 21] in this action
brought by Plaintiff Dominque Woodson individually and on
behalf of her minor son, Plaintiff P.W. The Plaintiffs filed
a response [ECF No. 26] on May 31, 2018. On June 28, 2018,
the Defendant filed a reply [ECF No. 30]. Lastly, on July 3,
2018, the Plaintiffs filed a sur-reply [ECF No. 32]. For the
reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS the Defendant's
Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim or
Alternatively Summary Judgment [ECF No. 21].
central question presented in the Defendant's motion is
whether the statute of limitations for the Plaintiffs'
Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) bars the
Plaintiffs from recovering for injuries that occurred during
Dr. Keith Ramsey's delivery of Ms. Woodson's son,
P.W., on December 7, 2013.
Dr. Ramsey and NorthShore Health Centers
to August 2005, Dr. Ramsey was in private practice in the
fields of obstetrics and gynecology. In August 2005, Dr.
Ramsey began his employment with NorthShore Health Centers
(“NorthShore”). When Dr. Ramsey started his
employment with NorthShore, he limited his private practice
to gynecology. He ceased delivering babies through his
private practice. Pls.' Resp. to Mot. to Dismiss or Summ.
J., Ex. E, Dr. Ramsey Dep., 14-16, 62-64, ECF No. 26-5.
is deemed eligible for FTCA malpractice coverage and has been
so at all times relevant to underlying facts of this action.
See Def.'s Mem in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss or
Summ. J., Ex. H, Hicks Decl., ¶¶ 6, 8, ECF No.
22-8. Both NorthShore and Dr. Ramsey, as a NorthShore
employee, are characterized as employees of the United States
with respect to any tort actions seeking money damages for
personal injuries resulting from alleged medical negligence.
December 7, 2013 Delivery of P.W.
her pregnancy, Ms. Woodson was treated by Dr. Ramsey at
NorthShore. While providing Ms. Woodson prenatal treatment,
Dr. Ramsey informed Ms. Woodson that her baby was large and
that he would likely need to perform a C-section at the time
December 7, 2013, Ms. Woodson went to Anonymous Hospital to
give birth. Ms. Woodson described the delivery as “very
traumatic.” Pls.' Resp. to Motion to Dismiss or
Summ. J., Ex. A, Woodson Aff., ¶ 13 ECF No. 26-1.
Despite Ms. Woodson requesting a C-section during the
delivery, a C-section was not performed. At one point during
the delivery, P.W. “got stuck on the way out” and
“Dr. Ramsey yanked P.W. out with great force.”
Id. at ¶ 13.
P.W. was born, Ms. Woodson noticed that P.W.'s
“left arm just sagged down to his side” and that
he “could not move his left arm at all.”
Id. at ¶ 14. Also, “[s]hortly after the
delivery, ” Ms. Woodson “knew something was wrong
with P.W.'s left arm, so [she] asked Dr. Ramsey what
happened to his arm.” Id. at ¶ 15.
According to Ms. Woodson, Dr. Ramsey responded by saying that
P.W. “may get better” and he “may grow into
it.” Id. at ¶ 15.
Retention of Counsel and Malpractice Claim
follow-up visits with Dr. Ramsey and other healthcare
providers over the course of the next several months, Ms.
Woodson retained Attorney Walter Sandoval on May 30, 2014, to
litigate her and P.W.'s claims against Dr. Ramsey,
NorthShore, and Anonymous Hospital. Ms. Woodson provided
Attorney Sandoval with “some records from NorthShore
and Anonymous Hospital.” Pls.' Resp., Ex. B,
Sandoval Aff. ¶5, ECF No. 26-2. According to Attorney
Sandoval, the records he reviewed did not identify NorthShore
as a federal clinic, Dr. Ramsey as an employee of NorthShore,
nor Dr. Ramsey as a government employee in any capacity.
Attorney Sandoval reviewed the records provided by Ms.
Woodson, he reviewed records in the public domain, and still
did not learn that Dr. Ramsey was a federal employee or that
NorthShore was a federally funded clinic. Attorney Sandoval
reviewed the websites of the Indiana Department of Insurance
(“IDOI”) and the Indiana Patient's
Compensation Fund (“IPCF”) to determine if Dr.
Ramsey was a “qualified” healthcare provider
under Indiana's Medical Malpractice Act (“Indiana
Act”), Ind. Code. § 34-18-1. Sandoval Aff.
¶¶ 6-7. Attorney Sandoval learned from these
websites that Dr. Ramsey was qualified under the Indiana Act.
Moreover, these websites indicated that Dr. Ramsey had been a
named defendant in twenty other complaints filed with the
Sandoval also searched Dr. Ramsey's independent website,
NorthShore's website, and the U.S. Public Health
Service's website. Attorney Sandoval attests that
“[n]one of these websites indicated at any time, to
[his] knowledge, that Dr. Ramsey was an ‘employee'
of NorthShore, that he was a ‘government,' or
federal employee, or that he could only be sued in federal
court pursuant to the [FTCA].” Id. ¶
Furthermore, Attorney Sandoval was unaware that Dr. Ramsey
was an employee of NorthShore, as NorthShore did not list him
as an “employee, ” even though it listed him as a
“doctor” at NorthShore. Id.
regarding Attorney Sandoval's knowledge of
NorthShore's status as a federally funded clinic,
Attorney Sandoval was unaware of NorthShore's federal
status as NorthShore's website did not indicate it was an
“FTCA Deemed Facility” when the Plaintiffs
retained him. See Id. ¶¶11-12.
Importantly, however, the NorthShore website did have a logo
on its webpage, during the relevant time, that reads:
“Community Health Center FQHC.” See
Pls.' Resp. to Mot. to Dismiss or Summ. J., Ex. C,
Kowalski Aff., 3-4, ECF No. 26-3.
December 18, 2014, the Plaintiffs filed a proposed complaint
against Dr. Ramsey and Anonymous Hospital to the IDOI and the
IPCF pursuant the Indiana Act. Under the Indiana Act, a
malpractice action may not be commenced against a qualified
healthcare provider until a proposed complaint has been filed
with the IDOI. Ind.Code. §34-18-8-4. On January 1, 2015,
and October 26, 2015, the IDOI informed the Plaintiffs'
counsel that Dr. Ramsey was a qualified healthcare provider
under the Indiana Act when he treated Ms. Woodson. Sandoval
Aff. ¶¶ 18, 23. Also, on October 26, 2015,
Plaintiffs' counsel received written notice that IDOI
informed Dr. Ramsey's insurance carrier, IRMIA, that Dr.
Ramsey was a party to the IDOI action. Id. at ¶
December 16, 2015, a little over two years after P.W.'s
delivery, Peter Boyles, counsel for NorthShore, informed
Attorney Sandoval that NorthShore is a federal clinic, and
that Dr. Ramsey, as an employee of NorthShore, is considered
a federal employee. Sandoval Aff. ¶ 25. Subsequently, on
February 19, 2016, the Plaintiffs, through Attorney Sandoval,
filed their tort claim with the Department of Health and
Human Services (“DHHS”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2675(a). Id. at ¶ 27. On May 1, 2017,
Attorney Sandoval received DHHS's written denial of the
Plaintiffs' tort claim. Id. at ¶ 30. The
Plaintiffs' filed the instant action pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2675(a) on October 26, 2017. Id. at
Defendants have moved for dismissal pursuant to the Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative,
summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
56(a). Therefore, the Court must provide the legal standards
for both and determine the appropriate standard to apply to
the instant Motion.
motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint, not the
merits of the case. In considering motions to dismiss for
failure to state a claim, “[courts] construe the
complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff,
accepting as true all well-pleaded facts alleged, and drawing
all possible inferences in her favor.” Tamayo v.
Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008). In
ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss, courts generally
must confine their inquiry to the factual allegations set
forth within the operative complaint. Rosenblum v.
Travelbyus.com Ltd., 299 F.3d 657, 661 (7th Cir. 2002).
“A plaintiff . . . must provide only enough detail to
give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests, and, through his allegations,
show that it is plausible, rather than merely speculative,
that he is entitled to relief.” Tamayo, 526
F.3d at 1083 (quotation marks and citations omitted).
Although a complaint does not need detailed factual
allegations, it must provide the grounds of the
claimant's entitlement to relief, contain more than
labels, conclusions, or formulaic recitations of the elements
of a cause of action, and allege enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level. Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Legal conclusions can
provide a complaint's framework, but unless well-pleaded
factual allegations move the claims from conceivable to
plausible, they are insufficient to state a claim.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679-81 (2009)
“[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court
to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the
complaint has alleged-but it has not
‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to
relief.'” Id. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2)). Determining whether a complaint states a plausible
claim is context-specific, requiring a court to draw on its
experience and common sense. Id. In addition, a
plaintiff can plead himself out of court if it would be
necessary to contradict the complaint in order to prevail on
the merits. Tamayo, 526 F.3d at 1086.
parties seeking dismissal submit documents with their motions
to dismiss, courts can either exclude the documents or
convert the motion to dismiss to a motion for summary
judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d); Tierney v. Vahle, 304
F.3d 734, 738 (7th Cir. 2002); Venture Assocs. Corp. v.
Zenith Data Sys. Corp., 987 F.2d 429, 431 (7th Cir.
1993). Under Rule 10(c), a “copy of a written
instrument that is an exhibit to a pleading is a part of the
pleading for all purposes.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c).
the Defendant has already moved, in the alternative, for
summary judgment under Rule 56, and the Plaintiffs have
responded by framing their arguments within the Rule 56
framework. Additionally, the Plaintiffs have designated their
own documents, including deposition testimony. Therefore, the
Court will treat the Defendant's motion as a motion for
judgment is warranted when “the movant shows that 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). The non-moving party must marshal and
present a court with evidence on which a reasonable jury
could rely to find in their favor. Goodman v. Nat'l
Sec. Agency, Inc., 621 F.3d 651, 654 (7th Cir. 2010). A
court must deny a motion for summary judgment when the
nonmoving party presents admissible evidence that creates a
genuine issue of material fact. Luster v. Ill. Dep't
of Corrs., 652 F.3d 726, 731 (7th Cir. 2011). A
court's role in deciding a motion for summary judgment
“is not to sift through the evidence, pondering the
nuances and inconsistencies, and decide whom to believe. The
court has one task and one task only: to decide, based on the
evidence of record, whether there is any material dispute of
fact that requires a trial.” Waldridge v. Am.
Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir. 1994). Facts
that are outcome determinative under the applicable law are
material for summary judgment purposes. Smith ex rel.
Smith v. Severn, 129 F.3d 419, 427 (7th Cir. 1997).
Although a bare contention that an issue of material fact
exists is insufficient to create a factual dispute, a court
must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the
nonmoving party, view all reasonable inferences in that
party's favor, Bellaver v. Quanex Corp., 200
F.3d 485, 491-92 (7th ...