Faure v. Community Health Systems, Inc., et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER by District Judge Kenneth J. Gonzales granting 252 Defendant MedAssets Workforce Solutions' Motion for Summary Judgment; finding as moot 348 Defendant MedAssets' Motion for Summary Judgment on Punitive Damages Claims. (tah)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW MEXICO
JOHN FAURE, as Personal Representative
for the Wrongful Death Estate of
GLORIA QUIMBEY, Deceased,
No. 14cv559 KG/KBM
COMMUNITY HEALTH SYSTEMS
PROFESSIONAL SERVICES CORPORATION,
LAS CRUCES MEDICAL CENTER, LLC,
doing business as Mountain View Regional Medical
Center, ACCOUNTABLE HEALTHCARE
STAFFING, INC., ACCOUNTABLE HEALTHCARE
HOLDINGS CORPORATION, MEDASSETS
WORKFORCE SOLUTIONS, and RONALD LALONDE,
LAS CRUCES MEDICAL CENTER, LLC,
STAFFING, INC., and MEDASSETS
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Defendant MedAssets Workforce Solutions’
(Defendant MedAssets) Motion for Summary Judgment, filed October 31, 2016. (Doc. 252).
Plaintiff John Faure (“Plaintiff”), as personal representative for the estate of Gloria Quimbey
(“Ms. Quimbey”), filed a response on November 17, 2016, and Defendant MedAssets filed a
reply on December 1, 2016. (Docs. 270, 284). Having reviewed the motion, the accompanying
briefs, and relevant law, the Court GRANTS Defendant MedAssets’ Motion for Summary
This is a wrongful death lawsuit concerning the death of Ms. Quimbey. Plaintiff
originally filed his Complaint for Wrongful Death, Negligence, Misrepresentation, and Punitive
Damages (“Complaint”) on May 9, 2014, in the First Judicial District Court of the State of New
Mexico. (Doc. 1-1). Defendant Las Cruces Medical Center, LLC, d/b/a Mountain View
Regional Medical Center (“Defendant MVRMC”), removed the case to this Court on June 17,
2014. (Doc. 1).
The Complaint alleges six counts. Count I is a wrongful death claim against all
defendants under the New Mexico Wrongful Death Act, NMSA 1978, § 41-2-1 (Rep. Pamp.
1996). (Doc. 1-1) at 14. Count II is a negligence claim against Community Health Systems
Professional Services Corporation (“Defendant CHSPSC”) and Defendant MVRMC Defendant
(together, “CHS Defendants”). Id. at 14-20. Count III is a negligence claim against Accountable
Healthcare Staffing, Inc., Accountable Healthcare Holdings Corporation, Defendant MedAssets,
and Ronald Lalonde (together, “AHS Defendants”).1 Id. at 20-22. Count IV is a negligence
claim against Affilion, LLC, and Dr. Joel Michael Jones (“Affilion Defendants”). Id. at 22-24.
Plaintiff originally alleged that the AHS Defendants were engaged in a joint venture or
enterprise; but, conceded in his response to Accountable Healthcare Staffing, Inc., and
Accountable Healthcare Holdings Corp.’s (“Accountable Defendants”) Motion for Summary
Judgment on Joint Venture and Punitive Damages that discovery did not support a claim for joint
venture between Defendant MedAssets and Accountable Defendants. (Doc. 357) at 2.
Count V is a claim for negligent or intentional misrepresentation against CHS Defendants. Id. at
24-26. Finally, Count VI is a claim for punitive damages against all defendants. Id. at 26.
On August 2, 2016, Defendant MVRMC filed a crossclaim against AHS Defendants.
(Doc. 197). Defendant MVRMC claims that AHS Defendants are liable for the alleged negligent
acts of Nurses Ronald Lalonde (“Mr. Lalonde”) and Penny Santi (“Ms. Santi”). Id. at 3.
Defendant MedAssets now moves for summary judgment on all claims against it.
II. Standard of Review
Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party shows “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). Once the moving party meets its initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine
issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to set forth specific facts showing
that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Schneider v. City of Grand Junction Police Dep't, 717
F.3d 760, 767 (10th Cir. 2013). A dispute over a material fact is “genuine” only if “the evidence
is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The Court views the facts in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party and draws all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party’s
favor. Tabor v. Hilti, Inc., 703 F.3d 1206, 1215 (10th Cir. 2013).
III. Facts and Reasonable Inferences Viewed in the Light Most Favorable to Plaintiff2
Plaintiff includes Accountable Defendants, Defendant MedAssets, and Mr. Lalonde as a
group and alleges that Accountable Defendants and Defendant MedAssets controlled “the hiring,
training, placement, quality control and actions of staff they placed at MVRMC.” (Doc. 24-1) at
Unless otherwise noted, the summary of material facts is undisputed.
10, ¶¶ 34-35. Plaintiff specifically alleges that Defendant MedAssets was negligent in its
medical care and treatment and failure to properly hire, train, and supervise its employees.
Defendant MedAssets negotiates contracts with suppliers and agencies for products and
services on behalf of customers, such as CHS Defendants. (Doc. 252-2) at 2. Specifically,
Defendant MedAssets negotiates contracts with staffing agencies and connects staffing agencies
with customers, including hospitals. (Doc. 252-3) at 1. Defendant CHSPSC designated
Defendant MedAssets as CHS Defendants’ “agent for purchases of contingent staff through
staffing agencies.”3 (Doc. 252-3) at 2. Defendant MedAssets also agreed to provide a
“proprietary web-based workforce exchange application” that allowed CHS Defendants to
“actively manage the ordering, fulfillment, and scheduling of contract labor.” Id. Accountable
Defendants sell services and entered into an agreement with Defendant MedAssets to sell its
services to Defendant MedAssets’ clients. (Doc. 252-2) at 2.
On June 6, 2010, Defendant MedAssets entered into agreements with the predecessors of
Accountable Defendants, in which Defendant MedAssets agreed to negotiate on behalf of
customers, such as Defendant CHSPSC. (Doc. 252-4) at 2, ¶ 1.3; (Doc. 252-5) at 2, ¶ 1.3. This
agreement explicitly states that any staff worked for Accountable Defendants’ predecessors, not
Defendant MedAssets. (Doc. 525-4) at 3, ¶ 3.2; (Doc. 252-5) at 3, ¶ 3.2. None of Defendant
MedAssets’ employees or contractors provided medical care to Ms. Quimbey, and Defendant
MedAssets did not employ Mr. Lalonde. Id. at 3, 4.
Defendant MedAssets admits this fact, but notes that Defendant MedAssets was not designated
as an “agent for hiring, selection, screening, training, credentialing, or supervision.” (Doc. 284)
Defendant MedAssets moves for summary judgment on all claims against it by Plaintiff
and cross-claimant Defendant MVRMC. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant MedAssets agreed to
connect CHS Defendants to staffing agencies, including the predecessors of Accountable
Defendants. (Doc. 270) at 2. By making these connections, Plaintiff maintains that Defendant
MedAssets “had a duty of ordinary care to ensure, at the very least, that such agencies were
taking basic steps to provide qualified staff members, especially considering that such nursing
staff included traveling nurses.” Id. In addition, Plaintiff claims that Defendant MedAssets “had
a duty of ordinary care to ensure that [Defendant MedAssets was] not negatively influencing the
staffing environment of MVRMC.” Id. at 2-3.
To prevail on a negligence claim under New Mexico law, a plaintiff must show the
existence of a duty, a breach of that duty, which is based upon a standard of reasonable care, and
that the breach was the proximate cause of plaintiff’s injuries. Herrera v. Quality Pontiac, 2003NMSC-018, ¶ 6. The existence of a duty is a question of law for the court; whereas, proximate
cause is generally a question of fact for a jury. Id. at ¶¶ 7-8 (internal citations omitted). The
determination of whether a duty exists is based on policy considerations, including “reference to
legal precedent, statutes, and other principles of law.” Otero Cty. Hosp. Ass’n, Inc. v. Quorum
Res., LLC., 527 B.R. 719, 764 (Bankr. D.N.M. 2015) (quoting Provencio v. Wenrich, 2011NMSC-036, ¶ 23 (internal quotation marks omitted)).
Plaintiff states that Defendant MedAssets owed Ms. Quimbey a duty of ordinary care
based on the principal-agent relationship between Defendant MedAssets and CHS Defendants.4
Plaintiff originally appeared to base his claim against Defendant MedAssets on vicarious
liability and alleged Defendant MedAssets employed Mr. Lalonde. (Doc. 284-1) at 4. However,
in Plaintiff’s response to the Motion for Summary Judgment, he states that Defendant
(Doc. 270) at 8. “An agent is a person who, by agreement with . . . the principal, represents the
principal in dealings with third persons or transacts some other business, manages some affairs,
or does some service for the principal . . . .” Barron v. Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan
Soc’y, 2011-NMCA-094, ¶ 16 (quoting Tercero v. Roman Catholic Diocese, 2002-NMSC-018, ¶
12) (internal quotation marks omitted). Defendant MedAssets does not dispute that it was CHS
Defendants’ “agent for purchases of contingent staff through staffing agencies.” (Doc. 252-3) at
2. However, Defendant MedAssets disputes that it owed Ms. Quimbey a duty of care based on
its role as an agent.
To impute a duty of care to Defendant MedAssets, Plaintiff relies on the determination in
Spencer v. Health Force, Inc. that “liability for negligent hiring flows from a direct duty running
from the employer to those members of the public whom the employer might reasonably
anticipate would be placed in a position of risk of injury as a result of the hiring.” 2005-NMSC002, ¶ 10.
Plaintiff’s reliance on Spencer is unavailing. That case involved the question of whether
an employer owed a duty to disabled individuals that received care services from its employees.
Id. at ¶ 8. The Court found that the employer owed a duty to its clients who received care from
its employees based on both statute and common law. Id. at ¶ 19.
“MedAssets has been named in this suit because MedAssets’ relationship with Accountable
[Defendants] caused [Ms.] Santi and [Mr.] Lalonde to work at the hospital, and because of
MedAssets’ involvement in the staffing that occurred at” MVRMC. (Doc. 270) at 7-8.
The Court also notes that Plaintiff did not respond to Defendant MedAssets’ request for
summary judgment on vicarious liability or liability under an employment theory. Therefore, the
Court deems all claims for vicarious liability or based on an employment theory abandoned and
will dismiss the claims with prejudice. See Coffey v. Healthtrust, Inc., 955 F.2d 1388, 1393
(10th Cir. 1992) (stating failure to rebut defendants’ arguments for summary judgment is fatal to
The instant case does not involve a question of the responsibility of an employer for the
actions of its employees. Instead, Plaintiff argues here that Defendant MedAssets as an agent is
responsible for the negligence of its principal or another agent. Plaintiff fails to present the
Court with any facts or law that supports this conclusion. New Mexico law provides that a
principal may be liable for the actions of an agent, Plaintiff has not shown that an agent may be
liable for actions of the principal or another agent. See UJI 13-402 NMRA. Plaintiff cannot rely
upon mere allegations or denials of his pleadings to avoid summary judgment, but must present
specific evidence sufficient to show a genuine issue of material fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248;
Munoz v. St. Mary-Corwin Hosp., 221 F.3d 1160, 1164 (10th Cir. 2000) (quoting Thomas v.
IBM, 48 F.3d 478, 484 (10th Cir. 1995)). Plaintiff fails to demonstrate that Defendant
MedAssets owed a duty of care to Ms. Quimbey. As a result, the Motion for Summary Judgment
In light of the foregoing, IT IS ORDERED that Defendant MedAssets Workforce
Solutions’ Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 252) is GRANTED in that;
1. summary judgment is entered in favor of Defendant MedAssets on all Plaintiff’s
claims, and the claims are dismissed with prejudice; and
2. summary judgment is entered in favor of Defendant MedAssets on all Defendant
MVRMC’s cross-claims, and the claims are dismissed with prejudice.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that based on the dismissal of Defendant MedAssets,
Defendant MedAssets’ Motion for Summary Judgment on Punitive Damages Claims (Doc. 348)
shall be terminated.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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