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Davis v. Grant Park Nursing Home LP

August 5, 2009

ANDREA DAVIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GRANT PARK NURSING HOME LP, D/B/A GRANT PARK CARE CENTER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Friedman United States District Judge

OPINION

This lawsuit stems from the death of Raymond Bender after an altercation at Grant Park Care Center, a local nursing home operated by Grant Park Nursing Home LP ("Grant Park"). Andrea Davis, Mr. Bender's personal representative, alleges that Mr. Bender died as a result of fraudulent and negligent conduct attributable to Grant Park and six other entities which, according to Ms. Davis, also exercise control or authority over Grant Park Care Center.*fn1 The defendants argue that they are entitled to dismissal or summary judgment with respect to all of Ms. Davis' claims.*fn2 The Court agrees with some but not all of the defendants' arguments.

I. BACKGROUND

According to Ms. Davis, Mr. Bender was admitted to Grant Park Care Center on or about January 26, 2008, see Am. Compl. ¶ 20, and soon thereafter was assigned to a room with an individual named Joseph Madigan. Ms. Davis claims that Mr. Madigan "had a [known] history of psychiatric problems and violence towards other residents of Grant Park Care Center and the staff of Grant Park Care Center," including "a history of territorialism and aggression towards roommates[.]" Id. ¶ 21. Ms. Davis further claims that on or about January 28, 2008, and for reasons that remain unclear, Mr. Madigan "pushed Raymond Bender to the ground causing [Mr. Bender] to hit his head." Id. ¶ 22. Mr. Bender apparently suffered severe injuries. See id. ¶ 28. Ms. Davis' amended complaint states that Mr. Bender was taken to a hospital approximately 24 hours after suffering those injuries, see id. ¶ 22, and that Mr. Bender died on January 29, 2008. See id. ¶ 8.

Ms. Davis filed this lawsuit on October 16, 2008. Her amended complaint, filed on November 7, 2008, sets forth three counts. In Count I, captioned "Negligence/Survival Action," she alleges that "[t]hroughout the course of his residency at Grant Park Care Center, Raymond Bender was subjected to substandard nursing home care." Am. Compl. ¶ 27; see also id. (setting forth eleven specific instances of alleged substandard care). She further alleges that

[a]s a direct and proximate result of the defendants' negligence, neglect, and multiple and repeated breaches of the applicable standards of care, Joseph Madigan assaulted and battered Raymond Bender causing severe mental and emotional distress, conscious pain and suffering, and cause[d] his estate to incur substantial medical and funeral expenses, and other substantial related costs.

Id. ¶ 28. Ms. Davis seeks $10,000,000 in compensatory damages under Count I, to be assessed jointly and severally against all seven defendants. See id.

In Count II, captioned "Fraudulent Misrepresentation," Ms. Davis alleges that an agent of the defendants lied to the District of Columbia government and that Mr. Bender suffered harm as a result. Specifically, she claims that in April 2007 the administrator of Grant Park Care Center, John Darden, represented to the District of Columbia government (in connection with an application for an operating license) that Grant Park Care Center's insurance coverage complied with a District of Columbia Municipal Regulation requiring nursing facilities to possess a $1,000,000 comprehensive general liability insurance policy. See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 29, 31-33.*fn3

Ms. Davis claims that Grant Park Care Center did not possess a $1,000,000 comprehensive general liability insurance policy at that time, see Grant Park/DCMI Opp. at 6, and that Mr. Darden knew or should have known that fact. This alleged misrepresentation harmed Mr. Bender, in Ms. Davis' view, because (1) the District of Columbia government would not have issued an operating license to Grant Park Care Center but for the misrepresentation; (2) if it had not received the operating license, Grant Park Care Center would have been forced to cease operating soon thereafter; and (3) if Grant Park Care Center had ceased operating soon thereafter, Mr. Bender would not have had an opportunity to seek admission to Grant Park Care Center in 2008.*fn4 Thus, argues Ms. Davis, Mr. Bender came into contact with Mr. Madigan, was battered and died "[a]s a direct and proximate result of [Mr. Darden's] fraudulent misrepresentation [to the District of Columbia government]." Am. Compl. ¶ 37. Ms. Davis seeks $10,000,000 in compensatory damages under Count II, to be assessed jointly and severally against all seven defendants. See id.

Finally, in Count III, captioned "Punitive Damages," Ms. Davis seeks $5,000,000 in punitive damages on the ground that defendants' "failure to remove Joseph Madigan from [Grant Park Care Center] was outrageous, and grossly reckless towards the safety of Raymond Bender and other residents of [Grant Park Care Center]." Am. Compl. ¶ 43.

II. SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION AND CHOICE OF LAW

The Court's subject matter jurisdiction is based on the parties' diverse citizenship. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332.*fn5 Under the so-called "Erie doctrine," federal courts sitting in diversity look to state law for rules of decision with respect to substantive matters. See Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938). Implementing the doctrine normally requires the Court to begin by engaging in a choice-of-law analysis under the District of Columbia's choice-of-law rules. See, e.g., Chandler v. W.E. Welch & Associates, Inc., 533 F. Supp. 2d 94, 104 (D.D.C. 2008). Here, however, all parties assume that District of Columbia law controls. The Court need not and does not question the parties' assumptions on that point. See CSX Transportation, Inc. v. Commercial Union Insurance Co., 82 F.3d 478, 482-83 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (parties may waive choice-of-law arguments); In re Korean Air Lines Disaster of Sept. 1, 1983, 932 F.2d 1475, 1495 (D.C. Cir. 1991) (courts need not address choice of law questions sua sponte).

III. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

A. Motions to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2)

Centennial LLC, a non-resident defendant, has moved to dismiss all of Ms. Davis' claims for lack of personal jurisdiction. Ms. Davis responds that this Court may exercise "specific" jurisdiction over Centennial LLC based on the District of Columbia's long-arm statute, 13 D.C. CODE § 423. (Ms. Davis does not argue that this Court may exercise "general" jurisdiction over Centennial LLC pursuant to 13 D.C. CODE § 334(a).)

The Court engages in a two-part inquiry to determine whether it may exercise specific jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant. First, the Court determines whether personal jurisdiction is authorized under the District of Columbia's long-arm statute. See GTE New Media Services, Inc. v. BellSouth Corp., 199 F.3d 1343, 1347 (D.C. Cir. 2000). That statute allows a court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant for claims arising from the following conduct:

(1) transacting any business in the District of Columbia;

(2) contracting to supply services in the District of Columbia;

(3) causing tortious injury in the District of Columbia by an act or omission in the District of Columbia;

(4) causing tortious injury in the District of Columbia by an act or omission outside the District of Columbia if [the defendant] regularly does or solicits business, engages in any other persistent course of conduct, or derives substantial revenue from goods used or consumed, or services rendered, in the District of Columbia;

(5) having an interest in, using, or possessing real property in the District of Columbia;

(6) contracting to insure or act as surety for or on any person, property, or risk, contract, obligation, or agreement located, executed, or to be performed within the District of Columbia at the time of contracting, unless the parties otherwise provide in writing; or

(7) marital or parent and child relationship in the District of Columbia [under certain conditions]. 13 D.C. CODE § 423(a). If jurisdiction exists under the District of Columbia's long-arm statute, then the Court determines whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction satisfies due process requirements. See United States v. Ferrara, 54 F.3d 825, 828 (D.C. Cir. 1995)). The plaintiff has the burden of making a prima facie showing that the Court has personal jurisdiction over a defendant. See Walton v. Bureau of Prisons, 533 F. Supp. 2d 107, 112 (D.D.C. 2008). To meet this burden, the plaintiff "must allege specific facts on which personal jurisdiction can be based; [she] cannot rely on conclusory allegations." Id. at 112 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

B. Motions to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)

Several defendants have moved to dismiss some or all of Ms. Davis' claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 12(b)(6) allows dismissal of a complaint if a plaintiff fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). In Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), the Supreme Court clarified this standard. The Court in Twombly noted that "Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests[.]'" Id. at 555 (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)); see also Aktieselskabet AF 21 v. Fame Jeans Inc., 525 F.3d 8, 15 (D.C. Cir. 2008). Although "detailed factual allegations" are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, to provide the "grounds" of "entitle[ment] to relief," a plaintiff must furnish "more than labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The Court stated that there was no "probability requirement at the pleading stage," id. at 556, but "something beyond... mere possibility... must be alleged[.]" Id. at 557-58. The facts alleged in the complaint "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level," id. at 555, or must be sufficient "to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. See also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, ...


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