Wilshire v. Love et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER granting Plaintiff's 14 MOTION for Approval of Wrongful Death Settlement and Distribution of Proceeds for Claims against Oak Hill Hospital Corporation d/b/a Plateau Medical Center, Inc. and 15 MOTION for Approval of Wrongful Death Settlement and Distribution of Proceeds for Claims against the City of Oak Hill, Oak Hill Police Department, Michael Whisman, Jr. and Randall Shannon Prince; denying Dr. Love's 18 OBJECTION to Plaintiff's settlement wit h the Oak Hill Defendants; directing Plaintiff to file a proposed order outlining the details of each settlement within 14 days of the entry of this Memorandum Opinion and Order. Signed by Judge Robert C. Chambers on 5/21/2014. (cc: attys; any unrepresented parties) (mkw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR
THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF WEST VIRGINIA
YEVETTE WILSHIRE, individually and in
Her Capacity as Administratrix of the Estate of
JEREMY RINEHART, Deceased,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:14-8374
(Consolidated with 2:12-0622)
BRIAN S. LOVE, M.D. and OAK HILL
HOSPITAL CORPORATION, d/b/a PLATEAU
MEDICAL CENTER, INC.,
BRIAN S. LOVE, M.D.,
Defendant and Third-Party Plaintiff,
CITY OF OAK HILL, the OAK HILL POLICE
DEPARTMENT; MICHAEL WHISMAN, JR.,
in his individual and official capacities as the Chief of
the Oak Hill Police Department; and
RANDALL SHANNON PRINCE, in his individual and
official capacities as a supervisor in the Oak Hill Department,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Pending before the Court are Plaintiff’s two motions for approval of the wrongful death
settlements and distribution of proceeds for claims against Plateau Medical Center (ECF No. 14)
and the Oak Hill Defendants (ECF No. 15). The Court convened a hearing concerning these
motions on May 19, 2014. For the reasons explained below and at that hearing, these motions are
GRANTED. Defendant Dr. Love’s objection to the settlement with the Oak Hill Defendants
(ECF No. 18) is DENIED. The Court accordingly DIRECTS Plaintiff to file a proposed order
outlining the details of each settlement within 14 days of the entry of this Memorandum Opinion
This case stems from the events surrounding the death of Jeremy Rinehart. Mr. Rinehart
was arrested on August 22, 2009, by the Oak Hill Police Department. At the time of his arrest, or
shortly thereafter, Mr. Rinehart informed the police that he had swallowed a plastic bag
containing cocaine. Mr. Rinehart was then transported to Plateau Medical Center, where he was
evaluated by Dr. Brian S. Love; Dr. Love determined that Mr. Rinehart could be released from
medical care. After being released back to police custody that same day, Mr. Rinehart went into
cardiac arrest; he died a few days thereafter.
On October 18, 2011, Plaintiff Yevette Wilshire, individually and in her capacity as
administratrix of the estate of Mr. Rinehart, commenced a civil action against Dr. Love and Oak
Hill Hospital Corporation, doing business as Plateau Medical Center (“Plateau”), in the Circuit
Court of Putnam County, West Virginia. Dr. Love filed a third-party complaint against the City
of Oak Hill, the Oak Hill Police Department, Police Chief Michael Whisman, Jr., and police
supervisor Randall Shannon Prince (“the Oak Hill Defendants”). Plaintiff thereafter filed a
complaint in that same case against the Oak Hill Defendants. Upon removal to this Court, the
case became Civil Action No. 3:14-8374. Prior to the removal of Civil Action No. 3:14-8374,
Plaintiff filed a separate civil action in federal court against the United States, based on the
alleged negligence of Dr. Sanjay Mehta. Compl., Wilshire v. United States, Civil Action No.
2:12-0622, ECF No. 1 (S.D. W. Va. Mar. 1, 2012) (alleging that the United States was liable for
the actions of Dr. Mehta because Dr. Mehta was an employee of a “Federally Qualified Health
Center,” under the Federal Tort Claims Act). Pursuant to the Memorandum Opinion and Order
entered by this Court on April 7, 2014, the two civil actions were consolidated under Civil
Action No. 3:14-8374. See ECF No. 11.
Plaintiff filed a motion for approval of the wrongful death settlement and distribution of
proceeds for claims against Defendant Plateau. ECF No. 14. The terms of that settlement are
sealed. No objection to Plaintiff’s motion was filed. Plaintiff also filed a motion for approval of
the wrongful death settlement and distribution of proceeds for claims against the Oak Hill
Defendants. ECF No. 15. Dr. Love filed a response objecting to Plaintiff’s proposed settlement
with the Oak Hill Defendants. ECF No. 18. The Oak Hill Defendants filed a reply in support of
the settlement between themselves and Plaintiff, ECF No. 19, and Plaintiff also filed a reply,
ECF No. 20.
The Court appointed a guardian ad litem, John A. Proctor, to make recommendations
regarding the proposed settlements as they relate to the decedent’s infant children. Mr. Proctor
filed an answer recommending that the settlements be approved. ECF No. 21. The Court also
appointed a guardian ad litem, Connor Robertson, to make recommendations regarding the
proposed settlements as they relate to the decedent’s incarcerated brother. Mr. Robertson filed
answers recommending that the settlements be approved. ECF No. 22 (recommending approval
of the settlement with the Oak Hill Defendants); ECF No. 23 (recommending approval of the
settlement with Defendant Plateau).
On May 19, 2014, the Court held a hearing regarding Plaintiff’s two motions. Both
motions are now ripe for resolution.
The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia described the standard for assessing
whether a proposed settlement was made in good faith as follows:
Settlements are presumptively made in good faith. A defendant seeking to
establish that a settlement made by a plaintiff and a joint tortfeasor lacks good
faith has the burden of doing so by clear and convincing evidence. Because the
primary consideration is whether the settlement arrangement substantially impairs
the ability of remaining defendants to receive a fair trial, a settlement lacks good
faith only upon a showing of corrupt intent by the settling plaintiff and joint
tortfeasor, in that the settlement involved collusion, dishonesty, fraud or other
Syl. pt. 5, Smith v. Monongahela Power Co., 429 S.E.2d 643 (W. Va. 1993) (emphasis added).
Some factors that may be relevant to determining whether a settlement lacks good
faith are: (1) the amount of the settlement in comparison to the potential liability
of the settling tortfeasor at the time of settlement, in view of such considerations
as (a) a recognition that a tortfeasor should pay less in settlement than after an
unfavorable trial verdict, (b) the expense of litigation, (c) the probability that the
plaintiff would win at trial, and (d) the insurance limits and solvency of all joint
tortfeasors; (2) whether the settlement is supported by consideration; (3) whether
the motivation of the settling plaintiff and settling tortfeasor was to single out a
non-settling defendant or defendants for wrongful tactical gain; and (4) whether
there exists a relationship, such as family ties or an employer-employee
relationship, naturally conducive to collusion.
Syl. pt. 6, id.
No party has objected to Plaintiff’s motion regarding settlement with Defendant Plateau,
and the guardian ad litems have recommended that the settlement with Plateau be approved. The
Court believes that this settlement is fair and reasonable, and accordingly approves Plaintiff’s
settlement with Plateau as outlined in the motion for approval of that settlement.
The parties disagree, however, regarding whether the Court should approve Plaintiff’s
proposed settlement with the Oak Hill Defendants, the terms of which are not under seal. Dr.
Love argues that the proposed $25,000 settlement should be rejected by the Court because it was
not reached in good faith and because “Plaintiff should not be allowed to foreclose Dr. Love’s
valid, and factually supported, cross-claim against the Oak Hill Defendants for the woefully
inadequate amount” of $25,000. Love’s Resp. 5. Dr. Love points to Plaintiff’s deposition
testimony, in which she states, “I had spoke with an attorney before [being represented by the
current counsel,] who was going to sue Oak Hill Police Department and then decided that it would be
better if they were on our side . . . because they would be better witnesses.” Id. at 3 (citation to
deposition not provided). However, that other attorney, Patricia Beavers, never filed any claims on
behalf of Plaintiff. Also, Ms. Beavers herself does not recall making that comment or considering
filing a claim against the Oak Hill Defendants. Decl. Patricia Beavers ¶¶ 5-6, May 7, 2014, ECF No.
20-7. Additionally, Plaintiff’s current counsel acknowledges that “[P]laintiff’s case against the
Oak Hill Defendants is a difficult one.” Pl.’s Reply 9. It appears to the Court that Plaintiff’s
counsel only filed direct claims against the Oak Hill Defendants—after Dr. Love filed crossclaims against the Oak Hill Defendants—in order to preserve Plaintiff’s ability to collect from
the Oak Hill Defendants should a verdict be granted in Plaintiff’s favor. Therefore, the Court
does not believe that “the motivation of the settling plaintiff and settling tortfeasor was to single
out a non-settling defendant or defendants for wrongful tactical gain.” Syl. pt. 6, Smith, 429
Dr. Love argues that the settlement deprives him of the opportunity for a fair trial by
limiting his ability to present evidence regarding the conduct of the Oak Hill Defendants.
However, on the contrary, it appears to the Court that Dr. Love will not be foreclosed at trial
from presenting evidence that the conduct of the Oak Hill Defendants was an intervening cause
of the decedent’s death. See Sydenstricker v. Mohan, 618 S.E.2d 561, 568 (W. Va. 2005).
Therefore, this settlement does not deprive Dr. Love of a fair trial.
The Court notes that a mediator guided the settlement discussions and supported the
settlement. The evidence further shows that this settlement is supported by adequate
consideration. See Pl.’s Mot. Approve Sett. Oak Hill Defs. ¶ 18 (“The Oak Hill Defendants have
agreed to pay the total amount of Twenty-Five Thousand ($25,000.00) in return for a complete
and full release from any and all liability, including attorney fees, liens, and costs of the
aforementioned civil action . . . .”). Additionally, Plaintiff and the Oak Hill Defendants do not
have “a relationship, such as family ties or an employer-employee relationship, naturally
conducive to collusion.” Syl. pt. 6, Smith, 429 S.E.2d 643. The Oak Hill Defendants also
currently have a motion to dismiss pending before this Court. This motion to dismiss could result
in the complete dismissal of the Oak Hill Defendants; however, Plaintiffs represent that
regardless of how that motion is resolved, the losing party would seek an appeal, resulting in
additional litigation costs and delay. Those costs and delays must be considered in conjunction
with Plaintiff’s assertion that succeeding against the Oak Hill Defendants at trial would be
Based on the considerations noted and as explained above, the Court finds that Dr. Love
has not shown, by clear and convincing evidence, a corrupt intent on the part of Plaintiff and the
Oak Hill Defendants, whether by collusion, dishonesty, fraud, or other tortious conduct, in
reaching this settlement. The settlement is fair and reasonable under the circumstances. Rejecting
the settlement would only protract this litigation, at greater expense to all. The settlement does
not result in undue prejudice against any defendant, especially Dr. Love.
Plaintiff’s motions for approval of the wrongful death settlements and distribution of
proceeds (ECF Nos. 14, 15) are GRANTED. Dr. Love’s objection to Plaintiff’s settlement with
the Oak Hill Defendants (ECF No. 18) is DENIED. The Court accordingly DIRECTS Plaintiff
to file a proposed order outlining the details of each settlement within 14 days of the entry of this
Memorandum Opinion and Order.
The Court DIRECTS the Clerk to send a copy of this written Opinion and Order to
counsel of record and any unrepresented parties.
May 21, 2014
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