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Middlesex Hospital v. Hinds

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 19, 2018

GARY HINDS, Defendant.



         Middlesex Hospital (“Plaintiff”), a hospital in Middletown, Connecticut, filed a lawsuit seeking indemnification in Connecticut Superior Court against Gary Hinds (“Defendant”), a registered nurse who worked at Middlesex Hospital through a contract with On Assignment, Inc. (“On Assignment”). Mr. Hinds removed the case to this Court on diversity grounds. Mr. Hinds now moves to dismiss, claiming that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction because Middlesex Hospital did not include a proper “similar health care provider” letter as required under Connecticut General Statutes Section 52-190a when it filed the Complaint.

         For the reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss is DENIED.


         A. Factual Allegations

         Mr. Hinds, a nurse licensed to practice in Connecticut, now lives in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 5. Middlesex Hospital, located in Middletown, Connecticut, is licensed by the Connecticut Department of Public Health. Id. ¶ 1.

         Mr. Hinds worked for On Assignment Services, Inc. (“On Assignment”), a corporation that “provided personnel staffing services, ” including temporary personnel, to Middlesex Hospital. Id. Middlesex Hospital had a contract with On Assignment to provide the hospital with staff. Id. On August 8, 2011, On Assignment placed Mr. Hinds at Middlesex Hospital. Id. ¶ 6.

         On October 11, 2011, Mr. Hinds worked in the Emergency Department as the primary nurse for Gloria Hall, a Middlesex Hospital patient. Id. ¶ 8. Mr. Hinds allegedly had “to monitor and observe” Ms. Hall, “and to provide her with appropriate nursing care and treatment in accordance with the applicable standard of care.” Id. During his shift, Mr. Hinds found Ms. Hall unresponsive as a result of death by suicide. Id. ¶ 9.

         On September 17, 2013, Patricia Hall-Jemison, the Administratrix of Ms. Hall's estate, filed a civil action for monetary damages against Middlesex Hospital and On Assignment, alleging that negligence by On Assignment, Middlesex Hospital, and their agents or employees, including Mr. Hinds, caused Ms. Hall's suicide. Id. ¶ 10. Ms. Hall allegedly had been admitted to the hospital after “exhibiting unusual behavior and/or having been found to be in an intoxicated state, ” and continued to exhibit unusual behavior while at the hospital, behavior noted by Mr. Hinds. Id. ¶ 11-13. Mr. Hinds allegedly discovered that Ms. Hall had hanged herself with a bed sheet at approximately 1:29 a.m. on October 12, 2011. Id. ¶ 14. Mr. Hinds's negligence allegedly caused Ms. Hall's death and damages. Id. ¶ 15.

         On November 25, 2013, Middlesex Hospital and Ms. Hall's estate settled that lawsuit; Middlesex Hospital agreed to pay the estate $500, 000 for release of liability and withdrawal of the case. Id. ¶ 16. On December 6, 2013, Middlesex Hospital paid the estate. Id. ¶ 17.

         B. Procedural History

         On November 21, 2016, Middlesex Hospital filed a complaint in the Superior Court for the Judicial District of Middletown, seeking indemnification from Mr. Hinds for the costs of the settlement. Not. of Removal ¶ 1, ECF No. 1. Middlesex Hospital attached an opinion letter to the complaint, allegedly written by a registered nurse and certified emergency nurse who had reviewed the circumstances of Ms. Hall's death and concluded that “there is evidence of negligence by the Middlesex Hospital nursing staff.” Not. of Removal at 16-17 (omitting signature).

         On December 15, 2016, Mr. Hinds removed the case to this Court, claiming diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Id. ¶¶ 5-7. Mr. Hinds also filed an Answer, which asserted that because “Plaintiff [failed] to attach an expert opinion letter authorized by a similar healthcare provider pursuant to Sections 52-190a and 52-184c of the Connecticut General Statutes, ” the Court lacked personal jurisdiction over Mr. Hinds. Answer at 4, ECF No. 16.

         On March 15, 2017, Mr. Hinds moved to dismiss, arguing that the expert opinion letter failed to “provide the requisite information to determine whether the author is a ‘similar healthcare provider, '” and that the letter failed to identify “any negligence by Gary Hinds and thus does not meet the detailed basis requirement” of Section 52-190a. First Mot. Dismiss at 4.

         On May 12, 2017, Middlesex Hospital filed a motion to amend, which the Court granted on October 5, 2017. ECF Nos. 27, 36. The Amended Complaint claimed that Ms. Hall's “death was caused by the failure of Defendant Hinds to exercise that degree of care and skill ordinarily and customarily used by registered nurses working in the emergency department under all the facts and circumstances then and there existing.” Am. Compl. ¶ 19. Specifically, Mr. Hinds allegedly failed to “properly monitor, observe, and care for Gloria Hall in light of her behavior while a patient in the emergency department, ” perform necessary and timely safety checks, regularly and properly observe Ms. Hall, provide “proper and accurate documentation regarding his observation and care of the patient, ” and “take proper action, in accordance with the applicable standard of care, so as to prevent Gloria Hall from committing suicide while a patient under his observation and care in the emergency department.” Id. Middlesex Hospital alleged that Mr. Hinds was “in exclusive control” of monitoring Ms. Hinds, that Middlesex Hospital “had no reason to anticipate such negligence, ” and that it “is entitled to indemnification from Defendant Hinds for all costs of defense in the Hall Litigation and the amounts it was caused to pay in settlement of the Hall Litigation.” Id. ¶¶ 20-22.

         The Amended Complaint also included a revised version of the opinion letter attached to the original Complaint. Mot. Dismiss at 11-12. The amended letter included the author's name, Joyce Foresman-Capuzzi, and more details about her experience with nursing in the Emergency Department. Id. The Court declared moot the first motion to dismiss, in light of the Amended Complaint. Order, ECF No. 36.

         On October 27, 2017, Mr. Hinds filed a motion to dismiss. Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 38. Mr. Hinds argued that “Plaintiff's filing of an Amended Complaint with a revised expert opinion letter subsequent to the expiration of the statute of limitations does not establish jurisdiction under Connecticut law.” Id. at 4. Middlesex Hospital filed an objection to the motion to dismiss, ECF No. 43, and Mr. Hinds filed a reply. ECF No. 44.


         On a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), the “plaintiff bears the burden of showing that the court has jurisdiction over the defendant.” In re Magnetic Audiotape Antitrust Litig., 334 F.3d 204, 206 (2d Cir. 2003). The plaintiff therefore must make a prima facie showing that jurisdiction exists. Licci ex rel. Licci v. Lebanese Canadian Bank, SAL, 673 F.3d 50, 59 (2d Cir. 2012). “The prima facie showing must include an averment of facts that, if credited by the ultimate trier of fact, would suffice to establish jurisdiction over the defendant.” Id.; see also Glenwood Sys., LLC v. Med-Pro Ideal Sols., Inc., No. 3:09-cv-956 (WWE), 2010 WL 11527383, at *2 (D. Conn. May 4, 2010) (“At this stage of the proceedings, if the court relies upon pleadings and affidavits, the plaintiff must make out only a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction, and the affidavits and pleadings should be construed most favorably to the plaintiff.”), aff'd, 438 Fed. App'x 27 (2d Cir. 2011), as amended (Sept. 23, 2011) (citing CutCo Industries, ...

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