Price v. Houston County Healthcare Authority et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING defendants' 9 MOTION to Dismiss,and Alternative Motion for More Definite Statement, as further set out in order. Signed by Chief Judge William Keith Watkins on 5/1/15. (Attachments: # 1 civil appeals checklist)(djy, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
DONNA JEAN PRICE,
CASE NO. 1:15-CV-200-WKW
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This case involves a claim of medical malpractice arising under the Alabama
Medical Liability Act (“AMLA”). Before the court is a motion to dismiss, or in
the alternative, motion for more definite statement, filed by Defendants Steven F.
Johnson, M.D. and John Vernon Manning, Jr., PA-C (hereinafter “Defendants”).
(Doc. # 9.) The court directed Plaintiff Donna Jean Price to show cause, on or
before May 1, 2015, why the alternative motion for more definite statement should
not be granted. (Doc. # 13.) Plaintiff has filed a response opposing Defendants’
motion to dismiss, but she is non-responsive to the alternative motion for more
definite statement. (See Doc. # 14.) Upon consideration of Defendants’ motions,
the Complaint, and relevant law, the court finds that the motion to dismiss and
alternative motion for more definite statement are due to be denied.
I. JURISDICTION AND VENUE
The court exercises subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
Personal jurisdiction and venue are uncontested by the movants.1
II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW
Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss
When evaluating a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must take the facts alleged in the complaint as true
and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Resnick v. AvMed,
Inc., 693 F.3d 1317, 1321–22 (11th Cir. 2012). To survive Rule 12(b)(6) scrutiny,
“a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “[F]acial
plausibility” exists “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 Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
Rule 12(e) Motion for More Definite Statement
A party may “move for a more definite statement” under Rule 12(e) when a
pleading is “so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a
Non-moving Defendant Houston County Healthcare Authority denies Plaintiff’s
allegations of subject-matter jurisdiction and venue, (see Answer at ¶¶ 5–6 (Doc. # 6)), but it has
not filed a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b).
response.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e). “The motion must be made before filing a
responsive pleading and must point out the defects complained of and the details
desired.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e). Motions for more definite statements are generally
disfavored by courts and are granted only when the plaintiff’s pleading is so
unintelligible that the defendant “cannot respond, even with a simple denial, in
good faith or without prejudice to himself.”
Fathom Exploration, LLC v.
Unidentified Shipwrecked Vessel or Vessels, 352 F. Supp. 2d 1218, 1221 (S.D. Ala.
2005); see also Charles Alan Wright, et al., 5C Fed. Prac. & Proc. Civ. § 1376 (3d
Defendants assert that the Complaint fails to comport with the AMLA’s
more stringent pleading standard that a plaintiff’s medical malpractice complaint
“include . . . a detailed specification and factual description of each act and
omission alleged by plaintiff to render the health care provider liable . . . .” Ala.
Code § 6-5-551 (emphasis added); see also Mikkelsen v. Salama, 619 So. 2d 1382,
1384 (Ala. 1993) (“[The AMLA] qualifies the generalized pleadings permitted by
[Alabama’s version of] Rule 8(a) by requiring in medical malpractice actions that
the complaint include a detailed specification and factual description of the
[defendant’s alleged] act[s] and omission[s].”). The AMLA states that “[a]ny
complaint which fails to include such detailed specification and factual description
of each act and omission shall be subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted.” Ala. Code § 6-5-551. Plaintiff’s Complaint
purports to set out “[a] non-exhaustive specification of [Defendants’] negligent,
willful, and/or wanton administration and provision of medical care.” (Compl.
at ¶ 17.)
Defendants contend that, by pleading that her allegations are “non-
exhaustive,” Plaintiff has failed to comply with the AMLA’s standard for pleading
a medical malpractice claim.2
Plaintiff responds by defending the adequacy of her pleading, noting the
specificity of her allegations that Defendants negligently or wantonly left surgical
pledgets3 in her esophageal wall during cardiac surgery in April 2013.
Compl. at ¶ 17(a)–(g).) She asserts that the allegations are adequate to state a
claim for relief under the requirements of AMLA, Iqbal, and Twombly. Plaintiff
does not, however, address Defendants’ argument that she simply may not
prosecute her medical malpractice claim with “non-exhaustive” allegations of
Additionally, Defendants explain that Plaintiff will be limited by the AMLA if she
seeks to discover information beyond the specific acts and omissions she has pleaded. (Doc. # 9,
at 2–3 (citing Ex parte Mendel, 942 So. 2d 829, 831 (Ala. 2006)).) This is a preview of what
objections Defendants may raise in future discovery, not a reason to dismiss the complaint or
require a more definite statement.
A pledget is a small wad of cotton or other soft, absorbent material used to stop an open
The court agrees with Plaintiff that her Complaint easily satisfies the “facial
plausibility” pleading standard enunciated in Iqbal and Twombly. Moreover, the
Complaint complies with the AMLA’s pleading standard. Plaintiff has alleged
specifics acts and omissions that could “render [Defendants] liable.” Ala. Code
§ 6-5-551. Defendants suggest that the statute’s requirement that Plaintiff include
specifics of “each act and omission” precludes her from proceeding on an
incomplete or “non-exhaustive” set of facts, but the AMLA contemplates the
prompt submission of an amended pleading on the basis of “new or different acts
Id. (emphasis added).
The one word in the Complaint that
Defendants find objectionable – “non-exhaustive” – has been used by Plaintiff,
presumably on purpose, to suggest that Defendants’ alleged liability may be
premised on other specific acts and omissions of which she is unaware and,
therefore, unable to plead.4 Defendants have not shown that the use of the word
“non-exhaustive” in an AMLA complaint is a basis for dismissal, and the motion
to dismiss is due to be denied.
Likewise, Defendants’ motion for more definite statement is unwarranted
because the Complaint is neither so vague nor so ambiguous that it prevents
Defendants from filing a responsive pleading. In fact, the Complaint is neither
If Plaintiff becomes aware of more information and chooses to amend her pleading,
Rule 15 requires “[t]he court [to] freely give leave when justice so requires.” Fed. R. Civ. P.
vague nor ambiguous, and Defendants have made no argument to the contrary.
Hence, the motion for more definite statement is due to be denied.
On the basis of the foregoing analysis, it is ORDERED that Defendants’
motion to dismiss and alternative motion for more definite statement (Doc. # 9) are
DONE this 1st day of May, 2015.
/s/ W. Keith Watkins
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?