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Frazier v. University of Mississippi Medical Center

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

October 2, 2017

MICHAEL FRAZIER AND JESSICA FRAZIER, ON BEHALF OF THEIR MINOR CHILD, J.L.F. PLAINTIFFS
v.
UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI MEDICAL CENTER D/B/A BATSON CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL, ET AL. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          Daniel P. Jordan III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant Dr. Lori McBride seeks dismissal of the medical-malpractice claims against her based on lack of personal and subject-matter jurisdiction, forum non conveniens, and prematurity of suit under Louisiana law. Because the Court agrees that it lacks personal jurisdiction over the claims against McBride, her Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction [76] is granted. Her Motion to Dismiss based on Choice of Law, Pre-Maturity of Suit under Louisiana Law, and Forum Non Conveniens [77] is considered moot, and the claims against her are dismissed without prejudice.

          I. Facts and Procedural History

         Dr. McBride is a pediatric neurosurgeon practicing in New Orleans, Louisiana. Plaintiff J.L.F., the minor daughter of Michael and Jessica Frazier, was a preterm infant born on April 17, 2004, with hydrocephalus (a buildup of excess cerebrospinal fluid in the brain). The Fraziers reside in Meridian, Mississippi.

         J.L.F.'s relevant treatment history began in Mississippi on January 21, 2009, when she received a ventricular shunt implant to drain cerebrospinal fluid from the brain into the abdomen. Seven years later, she developed complications and was eventually transferred by ambulance to Children's Hospital Foundation of New Orleans where Dr. McBride performed surgery to change the valve in her shunt.

         According to the Amended Complaint, on March 8, 2016, discharge planners at Children's Hospital arranged for J.L.F.'s discharge to Sta-Home Health & Hospice, a Mississippi-based home health-care provider. The Home Health Certification and Plan of Care that was sent to Sta-Home listed McBride as J.L.F.'s physician.

         J.L.F. continued to suffer various symptoms and was readmitted for several months of inpatient hospital care at Children's Hospital (New Orleans) and a hospital in Jackson, Mississippi. She was ultimately “discharged home with permanent brain injuries requiring tube feedings and nursing care in the home 16 hours per day.” Am. Compl. [9] ¶ 63.

         The Fraziers filed this lawsuit on behalf of J.L.F. on December 21, 2016. They assert claims for medical malpractice against a slew of medical providers. They premise jurisdiction in this Court on federal claims filed against three of the hospital defendants under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd, and § 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, 42 U.S.C. § 18116. As to McBride, the Fraziers assert state-law claims for negligence per se, patient abandonment and gross negligence, and negligence. Am. Compl. [9] ¶¶ 147-83. McBride filed two motions to dismiss, one asserting lack of personal and subject-matter jurisdiction and the other seeking dismissal on the basis of forum non conveniens and prematurity of suit under Louisiana law. Because the Court finds McBride's jurisdictional motion dispositive, it does not reach the issues raised in the second motion.

          II. Analysis

          McBride urges dismissal on the basis of both personal and subject-matter jurisdiction. “[I]n cases originating in federal court, there is no unyielding jurisdictional hierarchy” requiring the Court to consider a challenge to its subject-matter jurisdiction before ruling on personal jurisdiction. Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 578 (1999). Instead,

lower courts facing multiple grounds for dismissal [should] consider the complexity of the subject-matter jurisdiction issues raised by the case, as well as concerns of federalism, and of judicial economy and restraint in determining whether to dismiss claims due to a lack of personal jurisdiction before considering challenges to its subject-matter jurisdiction.

Alpine View Co. Ltd. v. Atlas Copco AB, 205 F.3d 208, 213 (5th Cir. 2000). Because the Court concludes that the personal-jurisdiction issue is relatively “straightforward” and “present[s] no complex question of state law, and the alleged defect in subject-matter jurisdiction raises a difficult and novel question, ” it chooses to “turn[] directly to personal jurisdiction.” Ruhrgas AG, 526 U.S. at 588.

         “Absent a federal statute that provides for more expansive personal jurisdiction, the personal jurisdiction of a federal district court is coterminous with that of a court of general jurisdiction of the state in which the district court sits.” Submersible Sys., Inc. v. Perforadora Cent., S.A. de C.V., 249 F.3d 413, 418 (5th Cir. 2001) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1)). The parties do not suggest that either of the federal statutes involved in this case expands the Court's personal jurisdictional reach, so the Court considers whether a Mississippi state court would have personal jurisdiction over the claims against McBride.

For a federal district court in [Mississippi] to exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant, that exercise of jurisdiction must first be proper under [Mississippi's] long-arm statute. If the state long-arm statute allows the district court to exercise personal jurisdiction, the exercise of personal jurisdiction must also be proper under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Id.

         A. ...


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