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Gunter v. Southern Health Partners, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

September 20, 2017

DAVID RAY GUNTER, Plaintiff,
v.
SOUTHERN HEALTH PARTNERS, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          OSTEEN, JR., DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on a Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings filed by Defendants Southern Health Partners, Inc., Jason Junkins, Sandra Hunt, Fran Jackson, and Manuel Maldonado (collectively “Moving Defendants”). (Doc. 63.) Plaintiff filed a response in opposition (Doc. 75); Moving Defendants filed a reply (Doc. 77); and Plaintiff filed a surreply (Doc. 78). This matter is now ripe for resolution, and for the reasons stated below, Moving Defendants' motion for partial judgment on the pleadings will be denied.

         Also before the court is Plaintiff's Contigent Motion (Doc. 79) to which Moving Defendants and Defendants Davie County, Andy Stokes, Cameron Sloan, Stokes County, Mike Marshall, Eric Cone, Western Surety Company, and Ohio Casualty Company have responded in opposition. (Docs. 81, 82.) Plaintiff has filed replies (Docs. 85, 86). For the reasons stated herein, Plaintiff's motion will be denied as moot.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was diagnosed with a heart defect as an infant. (Second Amended Complaint (“Second Am. Compl.”) (Doc. 57) ¶ 79.) Plaintiff's physicians prescribed medication to maintain his heart health and circulatory system, including Coumadin, an anticoagulant. (Id. ¶ 83.) The prescribed medications are essential in maintaining Plaintiff's health. (Id. ¶ 84.) Plaintiff must take regular doses of his medications, including Coumadin, to maintain levels of the medicine at a therapeutic level. (Id. ¶¶ 85-87.)

         On November 6, 2012, Plaintiff was arrested in Forsyth County, North Carolina. (Id. ¶ 89.) Plaintiff remained in Forsyth County that night. (Id.) On November 7, 2012, Plaintiff was transferred to the Davie County local confinement facility. (Id. ¶ 92.) Plaintiff did not receive proper doses of Coumadin in a timely manner while confined at the Davie County local confinement facility despite making efforts to advise and alert all appropriate officials to his medical condition and need for medical care. (Id. ¶¶ 100-01.)

         Plaintiff was transferred from the Davie County local confinement facility to the Stokes County local confinement facility on November 16, 2012. (Id. ¶ 104.) The records provided to Plaintiff reflect that no Coumadin was administered to Plaintiff on November 16, 17, or 18. (Id. ¶ 107.) “Emergency” doses of Coumadin were administered to Plaintiff beginning November 19, 2012. (Id. ¶ 108.)

         Plaintiff was released from the Stokes County local confinement facility on November 21, 2012. (Id. ¶ 114.) Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff went to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center for evaluation, where physicians determined that the interruptions in Coumadin, which occurred while Plaintiff was confined at the Davie County and Stokes County local confinement facilities, caused Plaintiff to develop blood clots which migrated to his gastrointestinal tract, creating intestinal blockages. (Id. ¶¶ 115-16.) As a result, Plaintiff required several surgeries and suffered numerous other complications. (Id. ¶¶ 117-22.)

         Plaintiff suffered pain, loss of quality of life, reduced life expectancy, medical expenses, and anticipated future medical expenses as a result of the interruption in Coumadin that occurred while he was confined at the Davie County and Stokes County local confinement facilities from November 7, 2012, to November 21, 2012. (Id. ¶ 123.)

         Plaintiff commenced the present action in the Randolph County Superior Court Division of the State of North Carolina on November 6, 2015, by filing an Application Extending Time to File Complaint (Petition for Removal, Ex. B (Doc. 1-2)), and a Motion Extending Statute of Limitations in Medical Malpractice Action (Petition for Removal, Ex. C (Doc. 1-3)). Plaintiff was granted permission to file a complaint up to and including November 26, 2015, by order of the Assistant Clerk of Superior Court. (Doc. 1-2.) By order of the Superior Court Judge, the statute of limitations for Plaintiff's medical malpractice action was extended to and including March 4, 2016. (Doc. 1-3.)

         Plaintiff filed his original Complaint on November 25, 2015, against Southern Health Partners, Inc. Sandra Hunt, Fran Jackson, and others alleging the following claims: Injunction; Official Capacity Claims against the State of North Carolina; Official Capacity Claims against Davie County, Davie County Board of Commissioners, Stokes County, and Stokes County Board of Commissioners; Official Capacity Claims against Defendant Sheriffs and their Deputies; Direct Claims against Sheriffs and Jailers; Injury to Prisoner by Jailer N.C. Gen. Stat. § 162-55; Action on Sheriffs' Bond; Negligent Supervision; Negligence of Southern Health Partners (“SHP”), Fran Jackson, and Sandra Hunt; 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Claims against SHP, Fran Jackson, and Sandra Hunt; False Imprisonment; and Torture and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress. (Complaint (“Compl.”) (Doc. 23) at 27-37.) The first Complaint did not contain a 9(j) certification pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat § 1A-1, Rule 9(j) (“9(j) certification”).

         Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint in this matter on March 3, 2016, adding Defendant Manuel Maldonado and adding 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against North Carolina Defendants, Defendants Boards of County Commissioners, and Defendant Sheriffs and their Employees, as well as adding a Medical Malpractice claim. (Amended Complaint (“Am. Compl.”) (Doc. 26) at 5, 40-43.) The Amended Complaint contained a “9(j) Medical Malpractice Certification.” (Id. at 87.) The Amended Complaint also alleged negligence under the common law doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. (Id. at 40-43.)

         A Petition for Removal to this court was filed on April 1, 2016. (Doc. 1.) On December 27, 2016, with leave of court, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint to add Defendant Ohio Casualty as the proper defendant in lieu of Marsh USA Incorporated. (Order (Doc. 56); Second Am. Compl (Doc. 57).) Moving Defendants filed an Answer to the Second Amended Complaint on January 9, 2017. (Doc. 61.) Moving Defendants filed the present Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings on February 22, 2017. (Mot. for Partial J. on Pleadings (Doc. 63).)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), a party may move for judgment on the pleadings “[a]fter the pleadings are closed - but early enough not to delay trial.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). Such motions are “designed to dispose of cases when the material facts are not in dispute and the court can judge the case on its merits by considering the pleadings . . . .” Preston v. Leake, 629 F.Supp.2d 517, 521 (E.D. N.C. 2009).

         Rule 12(c) motions are judged by the same standards as Rule 12(b)(6) motions. Drager v. PLIVA USA, Inc., 741 F.3d 470, 474 (4th Cir. 2014). Accordingly,

a motion for judgment on the pleadings “should only be granted if, after accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as true and drawing all reasonable factual inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor, it appears certain that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of his claim entitling him to relief.”

Id. (citations omitted). However, Rule 12(c) motions are limited in scope and courts must be “mindful that ‘[a] Rule 12(c) motion tests only the sufficiency of the complaint and does not resolve the merits of the plaintiff's claims or any disputes of fact.'” Massey v. Ojaniit, 759 F.3d 343, 353 (4th Cir. 2014) (quoting Drager, 741 F.3d at 474).

         When assessing a Rule 12(c) motion, the complaint, “the answer and any documents incorporated by reference in the pleadings may be considered. The ‘factual allegations of the answer are taken as true, to the extent “they have not been denied or do not conflict with the complaint.”'”[1] Blue Rhino Glob. Sourcing, Inc. v. Well Traveled Imps., Inc., 888 F.Supp.2d 718, 721 (M.D. N.C. 2012) (citations omitted). However, courts “are not obliged to accept allegations that ‘represent unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments, ' or that ‘contradict matters properly subject to judicial notice or by exhibit.'” Massey, 759 F.3d at 353 (citations omitted).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Moving Defendants argue that they are entitled to a partial judgment on the pleadings on Plaintiff's eighth claim for Negligent Supervision, Plaintiff's ninth claim for Negligence, and Plaintiff's sixteenth claim for Medical Malpractice because Plaintiff failed to include a proper 9(j) certification. (Mot. for Partial J. on Pleadings (Doc. 63) at 2.) Moving Defendants argue that they are further entitled to a partial judgment on the pleadings on Plaintiff's eleventh claim for False Imprisonment and Plaintiff's twelfth claim for Torture and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress because these claims are pled against “defendants” generally, thereby preventing Moving Defendants from being able to identify the claims they need to defend against. (Id.)

         A. Rule 9(j) Certification

         Effective October 1, 2011, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1A-1, Rule 9(j) (“Rule 9(j)”) states that any complaint alleging ...


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