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Simpson v. United States

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

December 1, 2016

JEAN SIMPSON, INDIVIDUALLY & AS EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF WILLIAM SIMPSON Plaintiffs,
v.
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS [DKT. NO. 24.]

          Hon. Vanessa L. Bryant United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Before the Court is Defendant United States of America's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). [Dkt. No. 24.] Plaintiff Jean Simpson, individually and as executrix of the estate of William Simpson, opposes the Motion. [Dkt. No. 25.] For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's Motion is DENIED.

         II. Factual Background

         The facts alleged in the Amended Complaint [Dkt. No. 18 (“Complaint”)] are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff for the purpose of a motion to dismiss. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957).

         As of September 9, 2013, Frank Defurio (“Defurio”) was a patient of the West Haven, Connecticut Veteran's Affairs Hospital (“Hospital”) receiving daily doses of methadone. Complaint at ¶¶ 10-11. Defurio had a history of psychological issues including, but not limited to, depression, suicidal ideations, attempted suicide, substance abuse, and paranoia. Id. at ¶ 12. On September 9, 2013, Defurio arrived at the Hospital appearing “confused, delusional, emotionally unstable, and/or intoxicated.” Id. at ¶ 15. Hospital staff gave Defurio 100 mg of methadone, which Plaintiff states is “known by Hospital staff to be an intoxicating substance, and the licensed disbursement and protocol for disbursement is regulated pursuant to 42 Code Federal Regulations Part 8.” Id. at ¶¶ 17-18. Hospital staff then allowed Defurio to leave the Hospital in his own vehicle. Id. at ¶ 19.

         On September 9, 2013, William Simpson (“Decedent”) attended a diabetes support group at the Hospital. Id. at ¶ 20. After the support group meeting, Decedent exited the Hospital and walked through a crosswalk to the adjacent parking lot, where he was struck by the motor vehicle driven by Defurio sustaining fatal head trauma. Id. at ¶¶ 21-23.

         Jean Simpson, Decedent's wife, brought the instant action individually and as executrix of Decedent's estate on December 23, 2015. [Dkt. No. 1.] Plaintiff filed the Amended Complaint on May 26, 2016, in which she asserts that Defendant negligently allowed Defurio to drive after administering him methadone. Id. at ¶ 24(N). The Amended Complaint also asserts “the Hospital violated the standard of care to provide the Decedent with a safe environment to receive medical treatment for his diabetes when they directly created the dangerous condition which resulted in Decedent's death on September 9, 2013 on Hospital property, by their negligent treatment of fellow patient, Frank Defurio.” Id. at ¶ 24(Q). Defendant moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint on July 11, 2016, alleging failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). [Dkt. No. 24.] Defendant attacks both the medical malpractice and the negligence claims for lack of probable cause. Id. at 3-5.

         Plaintiff clarified in her Opposition that her sole allegation is that the Hospital created “an unsafe environment for the decedent's treatment, through the Hospital's negligent acts regarding the treatment of another patient, Frank Defurio.” [Dkt. No. 25 at 4.] Plaintiff asserts the Court may decide whether to interpret that claim as one for medical malpractice or for general negligence. Id. at 12. Defendant's Reply and Plaintiff's Sur-Reply both ultimately characterize Plaintiff's general negligence claim as one for premises liability. [Dkt. No. 26 at 1; Dkt. No. 27 at 1.]

         III. Legal Standard

         To survive a Motion to Dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the complaint must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         The Court must “accept[] all factual allegations as true and draw[] all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff” when deciding a motion to dismiss. Litwin v. Blackstone Grp., L.P., 634 F.3d 706, 715 (2d Cir. 2011). A court may, however, “choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Hayden v. Paterson, 594 F.3d 150, 161 (2d Cir. 2010).

         Viewing the Complaint in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, the Plaintiff alleges that Hospital negligently created a hazardous condition by administering an intoxicating substance to a patient and allowing the patient to leave the hospital ...


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