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Michelle Nixon, Individually, and As v. Phillip C. Guzzetta

March 8, 2011

MICHELLE NIXON, INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS PARENT AND NEXT FRIEND OF MJ, A MINOR CHILD PLAINTIFF,
v.
PHILLIP C. GUZZETTA, M.D., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Beryl A. Howell United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This case is a medical malpractice action arising from a surgery performed on a minor child, MJ, at Children's National Medical Center ("CNMC") in Washington, D.C. on March 8, 2010. Plaintiff Michelle Nixon, individually and on behalf of MJ, is suing the surgeon, Defendant Phillip Guzzetta, for malpractice allegedly committed in connection with the surgery. Defendant Guzzetta has moved the Court to join CNMC as a defendant in this action pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2). For the reasons discussed below, the Court denies the motion for joinder.

I.Factual Background

The plaintiff's complaint ("Compl.") makes the following allegations.

At the time of the surgery, MJ was a three-year-old girl suffering from torticollis, a neck condition resulting in the tilting of the head to one side. Compl. ¶¶ 7-8. Plaintiff Nixon is MJ's parent. Id. ¶1. On March 8, 2010, MJ was brought to CNMC for treatment of the torticollis and consulted the defendant. Id. ¶¶ 7-11. The defendant recommended and performed a surgical operation to treat the condition. Id. ¶¶ 11-14. After the surgery, MJ's parents noticed paralysis in MJ's left arm and notified a nurse. Id. ¶ 15. A physician examined MJ's arm, assured the parents that "all was well," and discharged MJ. Id. ¶ 16. The next day, March 9, 2010, MJ was brought back to CNMC and seen in the emergency room, but was not admitted for treatment. Id.

¶ 17. The following day, March 10, 2010, MJ was again brought back to CNMC and was seen by the defendant and by a neurosurgeon, Dr. Robert Keating. Id. ¶ 19. MJ was then admitted to CNMC and, on the following day, March 11, 2010, Dr. Keating and others performed an operation on MJ to repair a group of nerves known as the brachial plexus. Id. ¶¶ 20-21. The plaintiff alleges Dr. Keating informed MJ's parents that the brachial plexus nerves had been severed during the torticollis operation performed on March 8, 2010. Id. ¶ 22.

The plaintiff alleges, as of the filing of the Complaint, that MJ "continues to have severe paralysis of her left arm known as Erb's palsy, and has only limited movement of her wrist and fingers." Id. ¶ 24. According to the plaintiff, the defendant's treatment of and operation on MJ was negligent or grossly negligent in various ways entitling the plaintiff to compensatory and punitive damages. Id. ¶¶ 25-28.

This case is before the Court on diversity jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The Complaint alleges that the plaintiff is a citizen of Maryland and the defendant is a citizen of the District of Columbia, and that the amount in controversy is greater than $75,000. Id. ¶¶ 1-5.

On June 7, 2010, the defendant answered the Complaint, ECF No. 3, and shortly thereafter, on June 15, 2010, filed the instant motion to join CNMC as a defendant pursuant to Rule 20(a)(2).

II.Discussion

The plaintiff objects to the defendant's motion to join CNMC as a defendant, arguing that it is procedurally improper for an existing defendant to join additional defendants via Rule 20(a)(2). The Court agrees that the joinder of CNMC pursuant to Rule 20(a)(2) is not permitted here.

Rule 20(a)(2) states, in relevant part:

Persons . . . may be joined in one action as defendants if:

(A) any right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or ...


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