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Marzorati v. Medstar-Georgetown Medical Center, Inc.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

April 17, 2019

ANTOINETTE MARZORATI, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
MEDSTAR-GEORGETOWN MEDICAL CENTER, INC. d/b/a/ GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          RANDOLPH D. MOSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Antoinette Marzorati (“Marzorati”) and her husband, Lawrence Marzorati, (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) are suing MedStar Georgetown Medical Center, Inc., d/b/a Georgetown University Hospital (“MGUH”) and Dr. Ivica Ducic for medical malpractice arising from Marzorati's unsuccessful nerve surgery in January 2008. The matter is before the Court on Defendant MGUH's motion for partial summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claims for negligent hiring, supervision, and training, Dkt. 36, and Dr. Ducic's motion for partial summary judgment, or, in the alternative, for judgment on the pleadings on Plaintiffs' claims for punitive damages, Dkt. 37. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will GRANT MGUH's motion, Dkt. 36, and will DENY Dr. Ducic's motion, Dkt. 37, without prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Marzorati met with Dr. Ducic, a physician specializing in plastic surgery and peripheral nerve surgery, to treat her chronic headaches. Dkt. 8 at 3 (Amd. Compl. ¶ 8). At the time, Dr. Ducic was employed by MGUH. Id. (Amd. Compl. ¶ 7). Dr. Ducic recommended that Marzorati undergo a surgical procedure known as an occipital neurectomy, which involves a bilateral decompression of the dorsal and greater occipital nerves and a bilateral transection of the lesser occipital nerves. Id. (Amd. Compl. ¶ 12). Marzorati underwent the operation on January 5, 2008. Id. at 5 (Amd. Compl. ¶ 21). Afterwards, Marzorati alleges that she was “left with severe, untreatable, and disabling pain, ” which she describes as “much worse” than what she experienced before the surgery. Id. (Amd. Compl. ¶ 24). When Marzorati described her symptoms during a follow-up visit, Dr. Ducic informed her that they were “not unusual” and advised her that “some people require a second surgery.” Id. (Amd. Compl. ¶ 26). Marzorati, however, “decided against [undergoing a] further procedure, ” id. (Amd. Compl. ¶ 27), because of her frustration with the results of her first surgery.

         In October 2016, more than eight years after the surgery, Marzorati and her husband filed suit against Dr. Ducic, MGUH, and MedStar Health, Inc. d/b/a/ MedStar-Georgetown Medical Center, Inc. d/b/a Georgetown University Hospital (“MedStar Health”).[1] Dkt. 1. Their amended complaint alleges medical negligence and loss of consortium (against Dr. Ducic and MGUH) and negligent hiring/supervision/training (against MGUH). Dkt. 8 at 6-9 (Amd. Compl. ¶¶ 33-51). Marzorati seeks $60, 000, 000 in compensatory damages and $10, 000, 000 in punitive damages from Dr. Ducic. Id. at 8 (Amd. Compl. ¶ 42). Her husband seeks $10, 000, 000 for loss of consortium. Id. at 9 (Amd. Compl. ¶ 51).

         Previously, Defendants moved to dismiss the amended complaint as time-barred. See Dkt. 9 at 3 (citing D.C. Code § 12-301(8) (setting forth a three-year statute of limitations for negligence actions)). The Court granted in part and denied in part that motion. See Marzorati v. MedStar-Georgetown Med. Ctr., Inc., 265 F.Supp.3d 24 (D.D.C. 2017). The Court dismissed Marzorati's informed consent claim because “the factual allegations contained in Marzorati's own complaint establish[ed] that she knew or should have known, as early as April 2008, that [Dr.] Ducic and the hospital had failed to inform her of the risk that [her surgery] . . . might make her pain worse, rather than better.” Id. at 27. The Court declined to dismiss Marzorati's negligence claims, however, because the Court could not conclude “as a matter of law” that Marzorati had “failed to exercise reasonable diligence in investigating whether her injury was caused by [Dr.] Ducic or the hospital's incompetence.” Id. at 30.

         After the close of discovery, Defendants moved for summary judgment on the same ground. See Dkt. 35 at 3-4 (arguing that Marzorati's negligence claims are time-barred). In addition, MGUH moved for partial summary judgment on Marzorati's negligent hiring, training, and supervision claims, Dkt. 36, and Dr. Ducic moved for partial summary judgment, or, in the alternative, for judgment on the pleadings, on Marzorati's claim for punitive damages, Dkt. 37. The Court held oral argument on all three motions on March 14, 2019. At the hearing, the Court denied Defendants' statute of limitations motion on the ground that there exists “a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether [Marzorati] had any reasonable belief or inquiry notice that she was the victim of Dr. Ducic's alleged malpractice before [March 2016]; and, if so, whether reasonable due diligence required her to investigate Dr. Ducic's assurances that her failed surgery was normal.” Dkt. 54 at 34 (Motions Hrg. Tr.). The Court reserved on the issue of punitive damages. Id. at 80-81 (Motions Hrg. Tr.). With respect to Plaintiffs' negligent hiring, training, and supervision claims, the Court expressed skepticism that there was sufficient evidence that “MedStar Georgetown actually had reason to believe that Dr. Ducic was engaged in dangerous behavior.” Id. at 38 (Motions Hrg. Tr.). The Court, nevertheless, permitted the parties to submit supplemental briefing on that issue, see Id. at 66-67 (Motions Hrg. Tr.). Briefing is now complete.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A party is entitled to summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 if it can “show[] that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and [that it] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party seeking summary judgment “bears the initial responsibility” of “identifying those portions” of the record that “demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). A fact is “material” if it could affect the substantive outcome of the litigation. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). And a dispute is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). The Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and must draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. See Talavera v. Shah, 638 F.3d 303, 308 (D.C. Cir. 2011).

         If the moving party carries this initial burden, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving to show that sufficient evidence exists for a reasonable jury to find in his or her favor with respect to the “element[s] essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Id. (quoting Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir. 2006)). The nonmoving party's opposition must, accordingly, consist of more than unsupported allegations or denials, and must be supported by affidavits, declarations, or other competent evidence setting forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. That is, if the moving party carries its initial burden on summary judgment, the nonmoving party must provide evidence that would permit a reasonable jury to find in his or her favor. See Laningham v. U.S. Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1241 (D.C. Cir. 1987). If the nonmoving party's evidence is “merely colorable” or “not significantly probative, ” the Court should grant summary judgment. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249-50.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. MGUH's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment

         MGUH moves for partial summary judgment on Plaintiffs' negligent hiring, supervision, and training claims. Dkt. 36. At oral argument, Plaintiffs' counsel conceded that Plaintiffs are no longer pursuing their claims for negligent hiring. Dkt. 54 at 37-38 (Motions Hrg. Tr.). Moreover, Plaintiffs' counsel did not make any argument as to Plaintiffs' negligent training claims, and Plaintiffs failed to oppose MGUH's motion for partial summary judgment on those claims in their brief in opposition or in their supplemental briefing. See Dkt. 42; Dkt. 51. The Court will, accordingly, grant summary judgment in favor MGUH on Plaintiffs' claims for negligent hiring and training and will consider only Plaintiffs' claims against MGUH for negligent supervision/retention.[2]

         Under D.C. law, a plaintiff alleging negligent supervision must provide factual evidence that the employer “knew or should have known its employee behaved in a dangerous or otherwise incompetent manner, and that the employer, armed with that actual or constructive knowledge, failed to adequately supervise the employee.” Rawlings v. District of Columbia, 820 F.Supp.2d 92, 114 (D.D.C. 2011) (quoting District of Columbia v. Tulin, 994 A.2d 788, 794 (D.C. 2010)). In order to succeed, the plaintiff must provide “proof that the employer breached a duty to plaintiff to use reasonable care in the supervision or retention of an employee which proximately caused harm to plaintiff.” Phelan v. City of Mount Ranier, 805 A.2d 930, 940 (D.C. Cir. 2002). In ...


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