Saucier et al v. Uchendu et al
ORDER re 10 MOTION to Dismiss For Failure to State a Claim MOTION to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction. IT IS ORDERED that Dr. Uchendu's 10 Motion to Dismiss is converted to a motion for summary judgment on the issue of whether Dr. Uchen du was a qualified health care provider at relevant times while in all other respects it remains a motion to dismiss; and IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the parties may supplement the record in support of or in opposition to the pending motion, a s converted, by submitting any relevant and appropriate summary-judgment-style evidence together with a memorandum having a maximum of five pages not later than January 25, 2021. The motion will then be ruled upon in due course, without oral argument. Compliance Deadline set for 1/25/2021. Signed at Signed by Magistrate Judge Patrick J Hanna on 1/7/2021. (crt,Alexander, E)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
CHANTAL SAUCIER, ET AL.
CIVIL ACTION NO. 6:20-cv-01197
CHUCKWUDI UCHENDU, M.D.,
MAGISTRATE JUDGE HANNA
Pending before this Court is the motion to dismiss, under Fed. R. Civ. P.
12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), which was filed by the defendant, Chuckwudi Uchendu, M.D.
(Rec. Doc. 10). The motion is opposed. The motion was referred to the undersigned
magistrate judge for review, report, and recommendation in accordance with the
provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636 and the standing orders of this Court.
Based on a report that the plaintiffs’ thirteen-year-old daughter K.D. was
cutting herself, Vermilion Parish sheriff’s deputies allegedly took K.D. from her
home to Abbeville General Hospital in the wee hours of September 17, 2019,
without her parents’ consent and over their objections.
At the hospital, Dr.
Chuckwudi Uchendu allegedly told the plaintiffs that K.D. had attempted suicide
and would be involuntarily committed to a mental institution.
He signed a
Physician’s Emergency Certificate (“PEC”) directing that K.D. be involuntarily
committed for fifteen days. The plaintiffs alleged that Dr. Uchendu violated state
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law by failing to examine K.D. before issuing the PEC. They further alleged that he
set forth false information in the PEC.
Later that morning, Vermilion Parish coroner Dr. Myriam Hutchinson
allegedly signed a Coroner’s Emergency Certificate (“CEC”), directing that K.D. be
The next day, K.D. was allegedly transferred from
Abbeville General Hospital and driven by a Vermilion Parish sheriff’s deputy to
Cypress Grove Hospital in Bastrop, Louisiana. The plaintiffs alleged that K.D. was
sexually assaulted by another patient while she was hospitalized at Cypress Grove.
The plaintiffs sued Dr. Uchendu and others, asserting claims under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 and Louisiana state law. They asserted claims against Dr. Uchendu for false
arrest, false imprisonment, fraud, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He
responded with this motion to dismiss, arguing, among other things, that the claims
are premature because the plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies
by convening a medical review panel before filing suit, as required by Louisiana’s
Medical Malpractice Act (“MMA”). The plaintiffs countered that Dr. Uchendu is
not subject to the MMA because he is not a qualified health care provider.
Law and Analysis
The Standard for Evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion
A motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) tests whether the complaint
states a legally cognizable claim. Rule 12(b)(6) motions are viewed with disfavor
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and rarely granted.1 When considering such a motion, the district court must limit
itself to the contents of the pleadings, including any attachments thereto,2 accept all
well-pleaded facts as true, and view the facts in a light most favorable to the
Conclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions of fact, and legal
conclusions couched as factual allegations are not accepted as true.4 To survive a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the plaintiff must plead enough facts to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.5
The Applicability of the MMA Cannot be Determined
Dr. Uchendu argued in support of his motion that the plaintiffs’ claims are
medical malpractice claims that must be submitted to a medical review panel before
being filed in court.
Any medical malpractice claim against Dr. Uchendu is
governed by the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act (“MMA”), 6 which requires that
Lowrey v. Texas A & M University System, 117 F.3d 242, 247 (5th Cir. 1997); Kaiser
Aluminum & Chem. Sales v. Avondale Shipyards, 677 F.2d 1045, 1050 (5th Cir. 1982).
Collins v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 224 F.3d 496, 498 (5th Cir. 2000).
In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation, 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007) (citing Martin
K. Eby Constr. Co. v. Dallas Area Rapid Transit, 369 F.3d 464, 467 (5th Cir. 2004)); Baker v.
Putnal, 75 F.3d 190, 196 (5th Cir. 1996).
Collins v. Morgan Stanley, 224 F.3d at 498; Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
555 (2007) (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).
Hammer v. Equifax Information Services, L.L.C., 974 F.3d 564, 567 (5th Cir. 2020) (citing
Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
La. R.S. 40:1231.1, et seq.
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medical malpractice actions against qualified health care providers must be brought
before a medical review panel before being asserted in a court of law.7 Thus, a
medical malpractice claim is premature and must be dismissed for failure to exhaust
administrative remedies when filed in court without having gone through the
medical review panel process.
The MMA applies only to claims asserted against qualified health care
providers. The term “health care provider” is defined in the MMA to include
physicians licensed to practice in Louisiana.8 The plaintiffs did not dispute whether
Dr. Uchendu meets that definition. As set forth in the MMA, a health care provider
is “qualified” under that statute only if he meets the statutory definition of the term
“health care provider” and also has filed proof of financial responsibility with the
Patient’s Compensation Fund and has paid the required surcharge.9 The burden is
on the defendant to prove prematurity and initial immunity from suit as a qualified
health care provider under the MMA.10
La. R.S. 40:1231.8(A)(1)(a).
La. R.S. 40:1231.1(A)(10).
La. R.S. 40:1231.2(A). See also Luther v. IOM Co. LLC, 2013-0353 (La. 10/15/13), 130
So.3d 817, 824.
See, e.g., Thomas v. Nexion Health at Lafayette, Inc., 2014-609 (La. App. 3 Cir. 01/14/15),
155 So.3d 708, 710 (citing Rivera v. Bolden's Transp. Service, Inc., 2011-1669 (La. App. 1 Cir.
06/28/12), 97 So.3d 1096, 1099); Andrews v. Our Lady of the Lake Ascension Community Hosp.,
Inc., 2013-1237 (La. App. 1 Cir. 02/18/14), 142 So.3d 36, 38 (citing Rivera v. Bolden's Transp.
Service, Inc., 97 So.3d at 1099); Wallace v. King, No. Civ.A 99-504, Civ.A. 99-1345, 2000 WL
222172, at *2 n. 6 (E.D. La. Feb. 23, 2000) (citing Goins v. Texas State Optical, Inc., 463 So.2d
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In this case, there are no allegations in the complaint concerning whether Dr.
Uchendu is or is not a qualified health care provider, but his motion to dismiss rests
on the fundamental contention that he is a qualified health care provider. He must
bear the burden of proof on that point. While a court will ordinarily limit itself to
the contents of the complaint when considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court has
complete discretion to consider documents other than the complaint11 if those
documents are attached to the motion, referenced in the complaint, and central to the
plaintiff's claims.12 If a court considers materials outside of the pleadings, however,
the motion must be treated as a motion for summary judgment,13 and the nonmovant
must be afforded the procedural safeguards of Fed. R. Civ. P. 56.14 If the court does
not rely on materials beyond the complaint, it need not convert the motion to dismiss
into one for summary judgment since the parties' submission of extraneous materials
743, 744 (La. App. 4 Cir. 1985)); Yokem v. Sisters of Charity of Incarnate Word, 32,402 (La. App.
2 Cir. 06/16/99), 742 So.2d 906, 909; In re Medical Review Proceedings, 94-403 (La. App. 5 Cir.
12/14/94), 648 So.2d 970, 972 (citing Jones v. Crow, 633 So.2d 247, 250 (La. App. 1 Cir. 1993)).
Isquith for and on behalf of Isquith v. Middle South Utilities, Inc., 847 F.2d 186, 193 n.3
(5 Cir. 1988); Ware v. Associated Milk Producers, Inc., 614 F.2d 413, 414-15 (5th Cir. 1980).
In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d at 205; Collins v. Morgan Stanley, 224 F.3d
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d).
Fernandez-Montes v. Allied Pilots Ass'n, 987 F.2d 278, 283 (5th Cir. 1993); Washington v.
Allstate Ins. Co., 901 F.2d 1281, 1284 (5th Cir. 1990).
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does not automatically convert a motion to dismiss into a motion for summary
In order to resolve the pending motion, this Court must make a threshold
finding regarding whether Dr. Uchendu was a qualified health care provider at the
time of the events related in the plaintiffs’ complaint. To make that finding, this
Court will have to rely on evidence submitted by Dr. Uchendu. To be a qualified
health care provider and subject to the provisions of the MMA, a person must be
qualified before the allegedly tortious events occur.16 Dr. Uchendu submitted a
document showing that he was a qualified health care provider in September 2019,17
but it constitutes documentary evidence that cannot be considered in connection with
the instant Rule 12(b)(6) motion.
The parties’ briefing raised the issue of whether Dr. Uchendu was a qualified
health care provider at material times, which is a fundamental issue that must be
resolved before the other arguments presented in support of and in opposition to Dr.
Uchendu’s motion may be considered. The resolution of that fundamental issue
United States ex rel. Long v. GSDMIdea City, L.L.C., 798 F.3d 265, 275 (5th Cir. 2015);
Davis v. Bayless, 70 F.3d 367, 372 n. 3 (5th Cir. 1995).
Luther v. IOM Co. LLC, 30 So.3d at 824 (citing Abate v. Healthcare Intern., Inc., 560 So.2d
812, 813 (La. 1990) (“the [Medical Malpractice] Act does not provide coverage to health care
providers who fail to qualify prior to the commission of the tortious conduct.”).
Rec. Doc. 30.
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requires the consideration of documentary evidence beyond the four corners of the
plaintiffs’ complaint and thus beyond the scope of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.
IT IS ORDERED that Dr. Uchendu’s motion to dismiss (Rec. Doc. 10) is
converted to a motion for summary judgment on the issue of whether Dr. Uchendu
was a qualified health care provider at relevant times while in all other respects it
remains a motion to dismiss; and
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the parties may supplement the record in
support of or in opposition to the pending motion, as converted, by submitting any
relevant and appropriate summary-judgment-style evidence together with a
memorandum having a maximum of five pages not later than January 25, 2021. The
motion will then be ruled upon in due course, without oral argument.
Signed at Lafayette, Louisiana, this 7th day of January 2021.
PATRICK J. HANNA
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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