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Nichols v. Greater Southeast Community Hospital

August 18, 2005

BENJAMIN NICHOLS, JR., PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE AND STEPSON OF JAMES PAUL HAMILTON, JR., DECEASED PLAINTIFF,
v.
GREATER SOUTHEAST COMMUNITY HOSPITAL, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John D. Bates United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

Pro se plaintiff Benjamin Nichols, personal representative of the Estate of James Paul Hamilton, brings this action against Greater Southeast Community Hospital ("Greater Southeast"), Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States, Inc. ("Kaiser"), and Logisticare Solutions, LLC ("Logisticare") [collectively "defendants"] for wrongful death and survival relating to the alleged negligent treatment of Mr. Hamilton. Currently before the Court are motions for summary judgment filed by each defendant. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant defendants' motions.

BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

Prior to his death on September 13, 2000, Mr. Hamilton was diagnosed with hypertension, gout, benign prostatic hyperthrophy, nephritis, chronic urinary tract infections, azotemia, anemia, bilateral renal cysts, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic depression, renal insufficiency, chronic renal failure, and end state renal failure. See Kaiser's Statement of Undisputed Facts ("Kaiser Statement") ¶ 1. To treat the chronic renal failure, Mr. Hamilton underwent the placement of an arteriovenous fistula in 1999 so that he could undergo hemodialysis treatment. Id. ¶ 2. From the time of that procedure until his death, Mr. Hamilton was treated with hemodialysis. Id. ¶ 3. On many occasions he was transported to and from his hemodialysis treatment by Metro Access, which provides transportation services for disabled people. Logisticare contracts with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to administer the Metro Access program. See Logisticare Statement of Material Facts as to Which There Is No Genuine Issue ("Logisticare Statement") at 2.

On September 7, 2000, Mr. Hamilton was taken by ambulance to Greater Southeast Hospital complaining of shortness of breath, episodic nausea, and recurrent falls. See Greater Southeast Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute ("Greater Southeast Statement") ¶ 1b. According to plaintiff, prior to the arrival of the ambulance, a representative from Kaiser, Pamela Martin, said that Mr. Hamilton should be taken to the emergency room at Washington Hospital Center. See Am. Compl. ¶ A. However, the ambulance driver would not take Mr. Hamilton there, so he was instead transported to Greater Southeast. Id.

Upon arriving at Greater Southeast, plaintiff requested that Mr. Hamilton be transferred to Washington Hospital Center, but staff at Greater Southeast refused the request and sought to perform tests upon Mr. Hamilton. Id. ¶ B. Upon his admission to Greater Southeast, the hospital records indicate that Mr. Hamilton was an "ill-looking male who was confused and not able to give good verbal responses." Greater Southeast Statement ¶ 1e. The records also indicate that Mr. Hamilton had not undergone dialysis for the two weeks prior to his admission. Id. ¶ 1f. He was given a battery of tests, which showed cerebral atrophy, and he was given dialysis treatment. Id. ¶¶ 1g-h. On September 13, 2000, while still at Greater Southeast, Mr. Hamilton's condition rapidly deteriorated and he died. Id. ¶ 1i. According to the death certificate, Mr. Hamilton died of acute myocardial infarction, and hypertensive heart disease. Id. ¶ 2. Other contributing factors were uremic encephalopatny from chronic under dialysis, type II diabetes mellitus, and end stage renal disease. Id. ¶ 3.

B. Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed this action on September 11, 2003 against Kaiser, Greater Southeast, Metro Access, and Washington Kidney Center Fresenrun Medical Care Columbia Heights Dialysis Unit ("Washington Kidney Center"). On May 4, 2004, the Court set a discovery schedule that required plaintiff to identify experts by June 24, 2004. The Court modified the Scheduling Order on August 23, 2004, giving plaintiff until September 23, 2004 to provide expert disclosures. In August and December of 2004, plaintiff's claims against Metro Access and Washington Kidney Center were dismissed.

Greater Southeast and Kaiser then filed motions for summary judgment alleging, inter alia, that plaintiff failed to identify any medical experts in support of his claims. Besides filing oppositions to these motions, plaintiff also filed a motion for leave to file an Amended Complaint. Plaintiff's motion to amend sought to include Logisticare as a defendant and change the name of Kaiser to Kaiser Permanente. The Court permitted plaintiff to include Logisiticare as a defendant, but denied plaintiff's request to change Kaiser's name. In rendering that opinion, the Court indicated that the motions of Greater Southeast and Kaiser would be taken under consideration. Since then, Logisticare has also filed a motion for summary judgment, which is now ripe for consideration.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings and the evidence demonstrate that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The moving party may successfully support its motion by "informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)).

In determining whether there exists a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to preclude summary judgment, the court must regard the non-movant's statements as true and accept all evidence and make all inferences in the non-movant's favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A non-moving party, however, must establish more than the "mere existence of a scintilla of evidence" in support of its position. Id. at 252. By pointing to the absence of evidence proffered by the non-moving party, a moving party may succeed on summary judgment. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted). Summary judgment ...


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