Saucier et al v. Uchendu et al
ORDER re 22 MOTION to Dismiss Myriam Hutchinson, M.D., individually and in her official capacity as Vermilion Parish Coroner MOTION to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction Myriam Hutchinson, M.D., individually and in her official capacity as Ve rmilion Parish Coroner. IT IS ORDERED that Dr. Hutchinsons 22 Motion to Dismiss is converted to a motion for summary judgment on the issue of whether Dr. Hutchinson was a qualified health care provider at relevant times while in all other resp ects 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 ev idence 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 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)(6), which was filed by the defendant, Myriam Hutchinson, M.D., individually
and in her official capacity as Vermilion Parish Coroner. (Rec. Doc. 22). 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
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committed for fifteen days. The plaintiffs alleged that Dr. Uchendu violated state
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 plaintiffs alleged that Dr. Hutchinson violated
Louisiana law by failing to examine K.D. before signing the CEC, falsely stated in
the CEC that K.D. had attempted suicide and was then currently suicidal, and falsely
stated in the CEC that K.D. was seriously mentally ill, dangerous to herself, and
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. Hutchinson and others, asserting claims under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 and Louisiana state law.
They asserted claims against Dr.
Hutchinson, in her individual and official capacities, for false arrest, false
imprisonment, unreasonable search and seizure, fraud, and intentional infliction of
emotional distress. They seek to recover punitive damages from Dr. Hutchinson,
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alleging that, in her individual capacity, she acted maliciously or with reckless
indifference to the plaintiffs’ rights.
Dr. Hutchinson responded to the complaint with the instant motion to dismiss,
arguing that the claims against her were 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 argued, among other things, that Dr. Hutchinson is not a qualified health
care provider and consequently is not subject to the MMA.
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
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
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).
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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. Hutchinson argued in support of her motion that the plaintiffs’ claims
against her are medical malpractice claims that must be submitted to a medical
review panel before being filed in court. Under Louisiana law, medical malpractice
claims are governed by either the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act6 or the Medical
Liability for State Services Act.7 As the Vermilion Parish coroner, Dr. Hutchinson
is not a state health care provider.8 Therefore, any medical malpractice claim against
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.
La. R.S. 40:1237.1, et seq.
La. R.S. 40:1237.1(A)(9)(b). See, also, Vanderhoff v. Beary, 853 So.2d 752, 755, 20030912 (La. App. 4 Cir. 08/20/03), 853 So.2d 752, 755, writ denied, 2003-2895 (La. 01/09/04), 862
So.2d 987 (“a parish is a political subdivision of the state and political subdivisions are excluded
from the scope of the MLSSA.”).
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Dr. Hutchinson is governed by the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act (“MMA”),
which requires that medical malpractice actions against qualified health care
providers must be brought before a medical review panel before being asserted in a
court of law.9 Thus, a medical malpractice claim is premature and must be dismissed
for failure to exhaust administrative remedies when filed 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.10 The plaintiffs did not dispute whether
Dr. Hutchinson meets that definition. As set forth in the MMA, a health care
provider is “qualified” under that statute only if she 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.11 The
burden is on the defendant to prove prematurity and initial immunity from suit as a
qualified health care provider under the MMA.12
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.
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In this case, there are no allegations in the complaint concerning whether Dr.
Hutchinson is or is not a qualified health care provider, but her motion to dismiss
rests on the fundamental contention that she is a qualified health care provider. She
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 complaint 13 if those
documents are attached to the motion, referenced in the complaint, and central to the
plaintiff's claims.14 If a court considers materials outside of the pleadings, however,
the motion must be treated as a motion for summary judgment,15 and the nonmovant
must be afforded the procedural safeguards of Fed. R. Civ. P. 56.16 If the court does
not rely on materials beyond the complaint, however, it need not convert the motion
to dismiss into one for summary judgment since the parties' submission of
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
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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extraneous materials does not automatically convert a motion to dismiss into a
motion for summary judgment.17
In order to resolve the pending motion, this Court must make a threshold
finding regarding whether Dr. Hutchinson 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. Hutchinson. While Dr.
Hutchinson submitted a certificate showing that she was enrolled in the Patient’s
Compensation Fund for the time period from July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021,18 the
events complained of allegedly occurred in September 2019. 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.19 Therefore, if this Court were
to rely on the evidence already submitted by Dr. Hutchinson, this Court would have
to conclude that Dr. Hutchinson failed to prove that she was a qualified health care
provider at the relevant time and consequently failed to establish that this lawsuit is
premature for failure to invoke a medical review panel.
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).
Rec. Doc. 40.
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.”).
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The parties’ briefing raised the issue of whether Dr. Hutchinson 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. Hutchinson’s motion may be considered. The resolution of that
fundamental issue 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)
IT IS ORDERED that Dr. Hutchinson’s motion to dismiss (Rec. Doc. 22) is
converted to a motion for summary judgment on the issue of whether Dr. Hutchinson
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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