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Hunter v. Medstar Georgetown Univ. Hosp.

United States District Court, D. Columbia

November 12, 2015

LINCOLN HUNTER, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
MEDSTAR GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL, et al., Defendant

          For LINCOLN HUNTER, ALEXANDER BORBELY, GARRETT GAMBINO, CHRISTINE GAMBINO, Plaintiffs: Craig L. Briskin, LEAD ATTORNEY, Steven A. Skalet, MEHRI & SKALET, PLLC, Washington, DC; Patrick A. Malone, LEAD ATTORNEY, Daniel C. Scialpi, PATRICK MALONE & ASSOCIATES, Washington, DC.

         For MEDSTAR GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL, Defendant: Elizabeth Anne Scully, LEAD ATTORNEY, BAKER & HOSTETLER LLP, Washington, DC.

         For DISTRICT HOSPITAL PARTNERS, L.P., doing business as, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL, Defendant: Eric N. Heyer, LEAD ATTORNEY, THOMPSON HINE LLP, Washington, DC; Seth A. Litman, PRO HAC VICE, THOMPSON HINE LLP, Atlanta, GA.

         ORDER

         ROSEMARY M. COLLYER, United States District Judge.

         This case was removed from D.C. Superior Court on September 14, 2015. See Notice of Removal [Dkt. 1]. Plaintiffs allege that they have been overcharged for their medical records by the hospital Defendants, as have been " many hundreds of people who have[] obtained their medical records from Defendants in the District of Columbia." See Class Action Complaint [Dkt. 1-1 at 7] (Complaint) ¶ 55. Plaintiffs assert a cause of action only under the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act, D.C. Code § 28-3901 et seq. (2015).

         Defendants removed to this Court under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d) (CAFA). That statute confers original jurisdiction upon federal courts to hear class actions where: (1) there are 100 or more plaintiffs; (2) any plaintiff is diverse from any defendant; and (3) there is more than $5,000,000 in controversy. See id. § § 1332(d)(5)(B); 1332(d)(2). The parties agree that the first two elements are satisfied. Although they dispute the third, the Court need not reach that question because it will remand the case under the " interests of justice" exception in 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(3). The exception is applicable because " greater

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than one-third but less than two-thirds of the [putative class] members" are D.C. citizens, and the factors enumerated in § § 1332(d)(3)(A)-(F) suggest that the case be remanded.

         First, Plaintiffs' right to recover ultimately turns on what is an " improper trade practice" and a " reasonable fee" under the D.C. Code, § § 28-3901(b)(1) and 3-1210.11, respectively. The Complaint does refer to federal law in an attempt to demonstrate that the fees were unreasonable under D.C. law. See Complaint ¶ 70 (" Defendants' charges for medical records violate the limitations on charges for medical records set forth in HIPAA, the HITECH Act and related regulations." ) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 17935(e); 45 C.F.R. § 164.524(c)(4)). But federal law does not control the outcome; a D.C. judge might well rule that Plaintiffs' reference to federal standards is unconvincing. In the end, " the claims asserted will be governed by laws of the State in which the action was originally filed." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(3)(B).[1]

         District Hospital Partners' (DHP's) memorandum bolsters this conclusion. In response to the argument that the D.C. Code is informed by federal law, DHP says that " [t]hat is an incorrect statement of law." DHP Mem. [Dkt. 21] at 12. As they put it:

The " reasonable fee" provision that Plaintiffs cite as controlling law in this case makes absolutely no mention of HIPAA being a basis for the calculation of reasonable fees. D.C. Code § 3-1210.11. In fact, D.C. Code § 3-1210.11(b)(1) states as follows:
A health care provider may require the patient or client, or person authorized to have access to the patient's or client's record, to pay a reasonable fee for copying, as determined by the board through rulemaking.
Accordingly, when this code section was implemented, the District of Columbia Health and Occupational Board stated that it intended to define what a reasonable fee for copying would be. It never has promulgated such regulations, nor has it suggested that HIPAA cost regulations should be followed. Plaintiffs' suggestion to the contrary is a misstatement of the present law.

Id. While perhaps intending to preview the merits of this case, DHP has ably shown why the issue presented is state, not federal, and thus why ...


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