Grenier v. Stamford Hospital et al
ORDER granting in part 69 Motion for Summary Judgment for the reasons set forth in the Memorandum of Decision attached. The Court holds that it retains subject matter jurisdiction in this action, and will grant summary judgment in favor of Defenda nts on June 5, 2017 unless Plaintiff files by June 2, 2017 (i) an admissible expert report authored by a qualified medical expert supporting his medical malpractice claims and (ii) a motion for a short extension of time to complete expert discovery. Signed by Judge Vanessa L. Bryant on 5/23/2017. (Hudson, C)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
MARC J. GRENIER,
AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE
ESTATE OF LAURA D. SHEEHAN,
THE STAMFORD HOSPITAL
STAMFORD HEALTH SYSTEM,
INC., AND EMERGENCY MEDICINE
PHYSICIANS OF FAIRFIELD,
CIVIL ACTION NO.
May 23, 2017
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANT’S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DKT. 69.]
Plaintiff Marc Grenier (“Grenier”), in his capacity as administrator of the
estate of Laura D. Sheehan, brings this medical malpractice claim against
Defendants Stamford Hospital, Stamford Health System, Inc., and Defendant
Emergency Medicine Physicians of Fairfield (“EMP”) (collectively, “Defendants”)
under Connecticut law, for injuries and the ultimate death of Sheehan while in the
care of Defendants. [Dkts. 1, 10, 75.] In Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint, he
claimed federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and
supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. [Dkt. 10 at 1.] Although
Defendants challenged jurisdiction in their Rule 26(f) Report, they have not
affirmatively asserted any challenge to the court's jurisdiction. [Dkt. 28 at 2.]
Defendants move for summary judgment, asserting Plaintiff has disclosed no
expert witnesses and cannot prevail on his medical malpractice claim without
one. [Dkt. 69.] Plaintiff's sole response to Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment is that this Court no longer has subject matter jurisdiction over this
matter, as Plaintiff amended his Complaint to withdraw his federal claim under
the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd., et
seq, leaving only state law claims. [Dkt. 78 (Opposition to Motion for Summary
Judgment); Dkt. 75 (Amended Complaint.] Defendants, in an apparent retraction
of their earlier challenge to the Court's jurisdiction, replied that the Court should
exercise its discretion to retain jurisdiction in this matter as substantial time and
resources have already been expended litigating this matter in federal court.
[Dkt. 81.] For the reasons set forth below, the Court holds that it retains subject
matter jurisdiction. In addition, unless Plaintiff produces an admissible expert
opinion supporting his medical malpractice claim within 7 business days of the
date of this Order, by June 2, 2017, the Court will enter summary judgment for the
Defendants on June 5, 2017.
Plaintiff brought his Complaint on July 3, 2014, alleging Defendants
Stamford Hospital and Stamford Health System, Inc. violated the Emergency
Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (“EMTALA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd., et seq.
. [Dkt. 1.] On October 7, 2014, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint to add a
second claim alleging Stamford Hospital, Stamford Health System, Inc., and
Emergency Medicine Physicians of Fairfield County LLC committed medical
malpractice causing Plaintiff’s decedent’s wrongful death in violation of
Connecticut General Statute § 52-555. [Dkt. 10.] Plaintiff included with the
amendment an Order from the Connecticut Superior Court extending the statute
of limitations for the medical malpractice claim. Id. at Ex. A.
Defendants moved to dismiss count one of the Amended Complaint on
December 1, 2014. [Dkt. 24.] Plaintiff filed an Objection [Dkt. 27] and Defendants
filed a Reply in Further Support [Dkt. 29]. On September 29, 2015, the Court
denied Defendants’ Motion in a fifteen-page decision, finding Plaintiff had
asserted a claim for EMTALA violations. [Dkt. 37.]
The parties requested significant Court intervention in the discovery
process. On November 27, 2015, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Compel production of
certain documents and interrogatory responses. [Dkt. 41.] Contemporaneous
therewith, Defendants filed a Motion for Protective Order concerning the same
documents. [Dkt. 46.] The Court held a hearing on January 8, 2016 and took the
motion under advisement to afford the parties an opportunity to resolve the
disputed issues. [Dkt. 55.] On January 29, 2016, the Court held a follow-up
telephonic hearing, at which the parties conveyed that they could not agree on
the extent to which the Defendants could assert privilege over peer review
materials under Connecticut law. [Dkt. 58.] The Court found the privilege applied
in a fourteen-page Memorandum of Decision on July 20, 2016. [Dkt. 60.]
On July 20, 2016, the Court amended the Scheduling Order to extend all
deadlines to accommodate the complexity of discovery. [Dkt. 63.] On December
28, 2016, Plaintiff moved to amend the complaint to withdraw his EMTALA claim
because “after conducting documentary discovery on the claims, [Plaintiff] does
not wish to devote [his] resources to further litigation of the EMTALA claim in
light of the discovery and in light of the fact that any discovery will not be
enhanced by the EMTALA claim.” [Dkt. 68 at 3.] Plaintiff’s motion also stated “[i]t
should be noted that removal of the federal claim will have the effect of also
removing federal question jurisdiction from this case.” Id. at 1. Defendants did
not object to the Motion to Amend. [Dkt. 71.] The Court granted Plaintiff’s Motion
to Amend on January 19, 2017, but did not decide the amendment’s impact on
jurisdiction. [Dkt. 74.]
During the same time frame, on January 3, 2017, the Court referred the
parties to a Magistrate Judge for a settlement conference. [Dkt. 70.] On January
27, the parties informed the Magistrate Judge that settlement discussions would
not be productive and no settlement conference was scheduled. [Dkt. 80.]
Five days after Plaintiffs’ Motion to Amend, inclusive of the New Year’s
holiday, Defendants filed their Motion for Summary Judgment asserting Plaintiff
cannot prevail on his medical malpractice claim absent expert testimony. [Dkt.
69.] Plaintiff filed an Opposition to Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment
on January 23, 2017. [Dkt. 78.] The three-page Opposition does not address the
merits of Defendants’ claim that Plaintiff cannot prevail on his medical
malpractice claims without expert evidence. Id. Rather, the Opposition only
asserts the Court no longer has subject matter jurisdiction over this case since
Plaintiff withdrew his federal EMTALA claim. Id. Defendants respond urging the
Court to exercise its discretion and retain jurisdiction over this action as
"[s]ignificant judicial resources and efforts on the part of the defendants have
been expended to date.” [Dkt. 81.]
Statement of Law
The federal courts possess subject matter jurisdiction over “civil actions
arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States,” known as
federal question jurisdiction, and over “civil actions where the matter in
controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000 . . . and is between – (1) citizens
of different states; (2) citizens of a State and citizens or subjects of a foreign state
[with certain exceptions]; (3) citizens of different States and in which citizens or
subjects of a foreign state are additional parties; and (4) a foreign state . . . as
plaintiff and citizens of a State or of different States,” known as diversity
jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question jurisdiction); 28 U.S.C. § 1332
(diversity jurisdiction). In addition, federal courts have supplemental jurisdiction
over “all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such
original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy . . . .” 28
U.S.C. § 1367(a); see also Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S.
546 (2005) (“[I]t is well established – in certain classes of cases – that, once a
court has original jurisdiction over some claims in the action, it may exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over additional claims that are part of the same case or
controversy.”). This holds true unless the claims concern new parties to be
added to the case who would destroy diversity jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(b).
Section 1367 codified two Supreme Court decisions discussing the
parameters of pendent and ancillary jurisdiction, upon which the supplemental
jurisdiction is based. Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 725 (1966), codified in
28 U.S.C. § 1367(a), articulated pendent jurisdiction, which applies where a case
is properly in federal court through federal question jurisdiction and the plaintiff
also asserts a state-law claim which would not fall under the federal court’s
original jurisdiction on its own. In such cases the federal court may exercise
pendent jurisdiction to hear all claims as long as they arise out of the same case
or controversy. 28 U.S.C. 1367(a); Gibbs, 383 U.S. at 725. Even where claims
qualify for pendent jurisdiction under Section 1367(a), federal courts maintain
discretion to exercise or decline to exercise pendent jurisdiction. CarnegieMellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 349-40 (1988) (citing Gibbs, 383 U.S. at 72627). Courts considering whether to exercise pendent jurisdiction over state-law
claims consider whether doing so would promote judicial economy, convenience,
and fairness to the parties without violating principles of comity. CarnegieMellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 349-40 (1988). "[T]he doctrine of pendent
jurisdiction thus is a doctrine of flexibility, designed to allow courts to deal with
cases involving pendent claims in the manner that most sensibly accommodates
a range of concerns and values. " Carnegie-Mellon, 484 U.S. at 351.
Relatedly, Owen Equipment & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 376-77
(1978), codified in 18 U.S.C. § 1367(b), defined the subcategory of supplemental
jurisdiction known as ancillary jurisdiction. Ancillary jurisdiction allows the
addition of claims against new parties (whether raised through joinder,
intervention, impleader, cross-claim, or counterclaim) which would not, on their
own, trigger the federal court’s original jurisdiction, as long as those claims arise
out of a “common nucleus of operative fact.” City of Chicago v. Int’l College of
Surgeons, 522 U.S. 156, 165-66 (1997). However, where the new parties would
destroy diversity, they may not be added, even if the claims against them arise
out of a common nucleus of operative fact with claims properly in federal court.
28 U.S.C. § 1367(b); Owen, 437 U.S. at 376-77.
Where a district court has exercised supplemental jurisdiction but later
dismisses all claims over which it had original jurisdiction, “[t]he district courts
may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction” over the remaining claims. 28
U.S.C. § 1376(c)(3). The Court is not, however, required to decline jurisdiction.
On the contrary, “[t]he discretion implicit in the word “may” in subdivision (c) of §
1367 permits the district court to weigh and balance several factors, including
considerations of judicial economy, convenience, and fairness to litigants.”1
Purgess v. Sharrock, 33 F.3d 134, 138 (2d Cir. 1994) (citing Castellano v. Bd. of
Trustees, et al., 937 F.2d 752, 758 (2d Cir. 1991). “[A]s a general proposition, . . . if
all federal claims are dismissed before trial, the state claims should be dismissed
as well.” Motorola Credit Corp., 388 F.3d at 56. However, a court acts within its
discretion in retaining jurisdiction where all federal claims are dismissed “late in
the action, after there has been substantial expenditure in time, effort, and money
in preparing the dependent claims,” such that “knocking [the parties] down with a
belated rejection of supplemental jurisdiction may not be fair. Nor is it by any
means necessary.” Id. at 56; Purgess, 937 F.2d at 138 (citing 28 U.S.C.A. 1367,
Practice Commentary (1993) at 835).
In 2004, the Second Circuit reiterated the factors for consideration: “judicial
economy, convenience, fairness, and comity.” Motorola Credit Corp. v. Uzan, 388
F.3d 39, 56 (2d Cir. 2004).
A case need not have proceeded to the eve of trial in order for the court
and the parties to have expended significant resources rendering supplemental
jurisdiction appropriate. For example, in Ametex Fabrics, Inc. v. Just In Materials,
Inc., 140 F.3d 101, 105 (2d Cir. 1998), the Second Circuit found the district court
appropriately exercised supplemental jurisdiction to retain the action and decide
the defendant’s summary judgment motion where the parties had settled the
federal jurisdiction-conferring claim eleven months prior. The parties had been
engaged in litigation for four months when they settled the jurisdiction-conferring
claim, after which the defendant moved for summary judgment, the court held a
hearing on the motion and opposition, and the court rendered a summary
judgment decision. Id. at 104-05. The district court litigation lasted a total of one
year and eight months. Id. The Second Circuit found the district court properly
retained jurisdiction because the parties “had already engaged in discovery
under an expedited discovery schedule and held a settlement conference before
a magistrate” by the time they settled the federal jurisdiction-conferring claim. Id.
From its inception, this Court has maintained supplemental pendent
jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s state and federal claims. All claims arise out of a
single set of operative facts, challenging the sufficiency of the medical treatment
Defendants provided. The claims comprise one case which should be logically
tried together. 28 USC 1367(a); Carnegie-Mellon, 484 U.S. at 351; Gibbs, 383 U.S.
The litigation has been ongoing for two years and nearly eleven months.
Id. The deadline to complete discovery, including any expert disclosures, was
nearly six months ago, and trial is imminent. [Dkt. No. 63.] The Court and the
parties have expended significant time and effort moving for and opposing
dismissal, completing discovery, participating in two hearings, and moving for
and opposing summary judgment. In fact, Defendants assert in their Reply in
Support of Summary Judgment that certain discovery relating to the nowabandoned EMTALA claim “took two Hospital employees working a full five days
to conduct, at a cost of approximately $4,000 and resulted in over 400 separate
patient charts. The results then had to be reviewed by individuals in medical
records and by [defense] counsel for accuracy.” [Dkt. 81 at 2.] Now, after
summary judgment briefing has been filed and with jury selection scheduled for
June 27, 2017, the Court faces a request to remand to Connecticut State Court.
Given the time and resources the parties have expended litigating this case for
the last almost three years, fairness and comity weigh in favor of retaining
jurisdiction. See Ametex Fabrics, 140 F.3d at 105.
In addition, the Court has expended significant time and effort deciding the
Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss and resolving complex discovery disputes in this
matter. [Dkts. 55 (Hearing on Motion to Compel), 58 (Telephonic Hearing on
Motion to Compel, 60 (Memorandum of Decision on Motion to Compel).] The
Court is familiar with the facts and history of the case, and judicial fairness and
convenience weigh in favor of this Court retaining the action rather than
remanding it to Connecticut State Court. Ametex Fabrics, 140 F.3d at 105.
Further, the timing of Plaintiff’s actions suggests an attempt at forum
shopping. The deadline to complete discovery, including any expert disclosures,
was December 1, 2016. [Dkt. 63.] Plaintiff filed no expert disclosures in support
of his medical malpractice or EMTALA claims. [Dkt. 69-3 (Declaration of Vimala
B. Ruszkowski).] Less than one month after the deadline passed, and five days
before the deadline for Defendants to move for summary judgment, Plaintiff
moved to amend the Complaint to remove his federal claim. [Dkt. 68.] Plaintiff
asserts the Court was divested of jurisdiction five calendar days before
Defendants moved for summary judgment for failure to disclose any expert
witnesses, a failure that appears from Defendants’ pleadings to be fatal (although,
as stated below, the Court withholds any such judgment at this time). To the
extent Plaintiff’s actions are an attempt to re-try his case through forum
shopping, they are improper. See generally Hanna v. Plumer, 380 U.S. 460, 468
(1965) (“the twin aims of the Erie rule . . . are discouragement of forum-shopping
and avoidance of inequitable administration of the laws”).
For the aforementioned reasons, in the interests of fairness, comity,
judicial efficiency, and convenience, the Court retains supplemental jurisdiction
over Plaintiff’s medical malpractice claims under Connecticut law. Purgess, 33
F.3d at 138.
Plaintiffs’ Medical Malpractice Claim
It is both well and long established that under Connecticut law a plaintiff
alleging medical malpractice must present expert testimony. Campbell v.
Pommier, 5 Conn. App. 29, 32 (Conn. App. Ct. 1985) (“In Connecticut, both breach
of the standard of care and proximate cause must be proved by expert
testimony”). A plaintiff must establish through expert testimony: (1) the
applicable standard of care, (2) the defendant's breach of that standard, and (3)
that the breach proximately caused the injury. Pisel v. Stamford Hosp., 180 Conn.
314, 334 - 42 (1980). Summary judgment is appropriate where it is evident that the
plaintiff cannot produce such expert testimony. See Guzze v. New Britain Gen.
Hosp., 16 Conn. App. 480, 484–85 (Conn. App. Ct. 1988); Stowe v. McHugh, 46
Conn. App. 391, 398 (Conn. App. Ct. 1997). Plaintiff has failed to disclose an
expert or to show good cause why the Court should reopen discovery to enable
Plaintiff to disclose an expert. Consequently it appears futile not to enter
summary judgment for Defendants.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment will
be granted if Plaintiff does not file a motion for a short extension of the discovery
deadline to complete expert discovery satisfying the good cause standard set
forth in Local Rule of Civil Procedure 7(b). Any such motion must be
accompanied by an expert report authored by a qualified medical expert
satisfying the criteria for an admissible expert opinion set forth in Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 26, Federal Rules of Evidence 702, 703, and 705, and Daubert v.
Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). In particular, in
accordance with the criteria established in Daubert and the aforementioned
Rules, any expert opinion offered must describe the expert’s training and
experience relevant to this case, state an opinion that one or more of the
Defendants failed to satisfy the requisite standard of care concerning Ms.
Sheehan, and articulate a plausible basis for that conclusion. Any such motion
and expert report must be filed by Plaintiff within 7 business days of the date of
this Order, by Friday, June 2, 2017. If Plaintiff fails to do so, the Court will enter
summary judgment in favor of Defendants on Monday, June 5, 2017.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Hon. Vanessa L. Bryant
United States District Judge
Dated at Hartford, Connecticut: May 23, 2017
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