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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Vicksburg Healthcare, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

September 22, 2014

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff,
v.
VICKSBURG HEALTHCARE, LLC AND COMMUNITY HEALTH SYSTEMS, INC. D/B/A RIVER REGION MEDICAL CENTER, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

KEITH STARRETT, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Defendant Community Health Systems, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction and Insufficient Service of Process ("Motion to Dismiss") [12] and Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment ("Motion for Summary Judgment") [14]. Having considered the submissions of the parties, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the Motion to Dismiss [12] should be granted and the Motion for Summary Judgment [14] should be denied as moot.

I. BACKGROUND

On September 30, 2013, the Plaintiff Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") filed this action on behalf of Beatrice Chambers alleging disability discrimination under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq. ("ADA"). ( See Compl. [1].) The Complaint names Community Health Systems, Inc. ("CHSI") and Vicksburg Healthcare, LLC ("VHL") as Defendants, and asserts that both CHSI and VHL have been continuously doing business as River Region Medical Center ("River Region") in Vicksburg, Mississippi, at all times relevant to the Complaint. The EEOC alleges that Beatrice Chambers was employed as a nurse at River Region and that the Defendants terminated her employment because of her disability and failed to provide her with a reasonable accommodation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a) and (b)(5)(A) of the ADA.

On December 10, 2013, VHL and CHSI filed their Answers to the Complaint. Both Defendants denied any and all liability. VHL admitted doing business as River Region and employing Beatrice Chambers from approximately 1975 until her termination on October 14, 2011. CHSI denied doing business as River Region or employing Beatrice Chambers. In addition, CHSI asserted the affirmative defenses of lack of personal jurisdiction, insufficient process, and insufficient service of process.

On January 27, 2014, CHSI filed its Motion to Dismiss [12], seeking dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) (lack of personal jurisdiction) and (b)(5) (insufficient service of process). Also on January 27, CHSI filed its Motion for Summary Judgment [14]. CHSI's summary judgment motion is submitted "as an alternative dispositive motion", and posits that CHSI is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because it does not qualify as a statutory employer under the ADA. (CHSI's Mem. Brief in Supp. of Mot. for SJ [15] at p. 1 n.1.)

The Court finds that the issue of personal jurisdiction over CHSI is controlling. The following circumstances relevant to this issue appear to be uncontested between the litigants. CHSI was incorporated in Delaware and has its principal place of business in Franklin, Tennessee. VHL is a subsidiary of CHSI. VHL was formed in Delaware and has its principal place of business in Franklin, Tennessee. VHL does business under the fictitious names "River Region Medical Center" and "River Region Health System".

Whether CHSI has jurisdiction establishing contacts with Mississippi, either by virtue of an alter ego relationship with VHL or its own business activities, is the primary dispute presented by the Motion to Dismiss [12]. The Court has fully considered the undisputed facts and the parties' competing contentions and is ready to rule.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standards

"When a federal question case is based upon a federal statute that is silent as to service of process, " the district court must determine if the defendant is subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of the forum state. Aviles v. Kunkle, 978 F.2d 201, 203-04 (5th Cir. 1992) (citation omitted). The ADA, under which the EEOC asserts its federal claim, is such a statute. See Elliot v. Firearms Training Sys., Inc., No. SA-04-CA-0490-RF, 2004 WL 2567619, at *2 (W.D. Tex. Oct. 21, 2004) (examining the Texas long-arm statute in an action alleging discrimination under the ADA). Therefore, this Court must determine if CHSI is subject to suit in a Mississippi state court.

A non-resident defendant is amenable to being sued in Mississippi if: (1) Mississippi's long-arm statute confers jurisdiction over the defendant; and (2) the exercise of personal jurisdiction comports with the requirements of federal due process. See Stripling v. Jordan Prod. Co., 234 F.3d 863, 869 (5th Cir. 2000) (citation omitted). Both inquiries are relevant here since "Mississippi's long-arm statute is not coextensive with due process." Id. at 869 n.7. Mississippi's long-arm statute states in pertinent part:

Any nonresident... who shall make a contract with a resident of this state to be performed in whole or in part by any party in this state, or who shall commit a tort in whole or in part in this state against a resident or nonresident of this state, or who shall do any business or perform any character of work or service in this state, shall by such act or acts be deemed to be doing business in Mississippi and shall thereby be subjected to the jurisdiction of the courts of this state.

Miss. Code Ann. § 13-3-57. This statute consists of three prongs: (i) the contract prong; (ii) the tort prong; and (iii) the doing-business prong. See Walker v. World Ins. ...


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