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Multiplan, Inc. v. Holland

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

March 30, 2018

MULTIPLAN, INC. and PRIVATE HEALTHCARE SYSTEMS, INC. PLAINTIFFS/ COUNTER-DEFENDANTS
v.
STEVEN W. HOLLAND, doing business as Physical Therapy Clinic of Gulfport DEFENDANT/ COUNTERCLAIMANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING STEVEN W. HOLLAND'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW

          Louis Guirola, Jr. United States District Judge

         BEFORE THE COURT is the ore tenus Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law filed by the defendant/counterclaimant Steven W. Holland, doing business as Physical Therapy Clinic of Gulfport. For the following reasons, the Court finds that there is an insufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find in favor of Multiplan and Private Healthcare as to their tortious interference of business relations claim. Therefore, Holland's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law is granted.

         BACKGROUND

         This lawsuit arose out of a dispute between Holland, a physical therapist, and two preferred provider organizations (PPOs), Private Healthcare and Multiplan. Holland alleged that the PPOs applied discounts to workers' compensation claims to which they were not entitled. Multiplan and Private Healthcare have sued Holland, claiming that Holland's alleged agent, Kevin Barrett, doing business as Quest Financial Recovery Services, tortiously interfered with their business relations.

         The jury trial of this matter began on March 26, 2018. Following the conclusion of all testimony, Holland renewed his ore tenus Motion for a Judgment as a Matter of Law.

         DISCUSSION

         A court may grant judgment as a matter of law if “the court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(1). “In resolving such challenges, we draw all reasonable inferences and resolve credibility determinations in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Foradori v. Harris, 523 F.3d 477, 485 (5th Cir. 2008).

         Under Mississippi law, a tortious interference with business relations claim requires proof of the following four elements:

(1) the acts were intentional and willful; (2) the acts were calculated to cause damage to the plaintiffs in their lawful business; (3) the acts were done with the unlawful purpose of causing damage and loss without right or justifiable cause on the part of the defendant (which constitutes malice); and (4) actual loss and damage resulted.

PDN, Inc. v. Loring, 843 So.2d 685, 688 (Miss. 2003) (citing MBF Corp. v. Century Bus. Commc'ns, Inc., 663 So.2d 595, 598 (Miss.1995)). “[A]ctual damage and loss is a required component of the tort of interference with business relations.” Biglane v. Under the Hill, 949 So.2d 9, 17 (¶40) (Miss. 2007). Therefore, in order to demonstrate damages for tortious interference, a “plaintiff must show (1) a loss, and (2) that defendant's conduct caused the loss.” Par Indus., Inc. v. Target Container Co., 708 So.2d 44, 48 (¶10) (Miss. 1998). Furthermore, “the plaintiff must provide hard proof of financial loss. Speculative losses will not suffice.” Johnny C. Parker, Mississippi Law of Damages § 35:19 (3d ed. 2003) (citing Cenac v. Murry, 609 So.2d 1257 (Miss. 1992)). Generally, such loss is proved by showing a loss of business or profit. See Cenac, 609 So.2d at 1272.

         In the present case, Multiplan and Private Healthcare argue that they demonstrated they suffered actual damages and loss, because they incurred attorney's fees and expenses as well as a loss of good will. The Court will first consider the argument that attorney's fees and expenses can be recovered as compensatory damages.

         The Mississippi Supreme Court has held:

As a general rule, in the absence of any contractual or statutory liability therefor, attorneys' fees and expenses incurred by the plaintiff or which the plaintiff is obligated to pay, in the litigation of his claim against the defendant, aside from usual court costs, are not recoverable as an item of damages, either in an action ex contractu or an action ex delicto. Nor are attorneys' fees and other expenses of former litigation, particularly suits prosecuted by the plaintiff against the defendant, recoverable in a subsequent action.

City of Laurel v. Bush, 120 So.2d 149, 155 (Miss. 1960); see also Tunica Cty. v. Town of Tunica, 227 So.3d 1007, 1027 (Miss. 2017) (“Mississippi follows the general rule that, in the absence of a contractual agreement or statutory authority, attorney's fees may not be awarded except in cases in which punitive damages are proper.”) The plaintiffs cite ACI Chemicals, Inc. v. Metaplex, Inc., 615 So.2d 1192 (Miss. 1993), for the proposition that attorney's fees satisfy the element of actual damage and loss for a tortious interference claim. However, the issue of whether it was proper ...


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