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Samuel v. United States

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

June 21, 2016

ROSENDA SAMUEL, Individually and as Special Administrator of the ESTATE OF RIENDA SUPU, and LEWIS SAMUEL, Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; HAWAII HEALTH SYSTEMS CORPORATION dba HILO MEDICAL CENTER; JAMES MORRISON, M.D.; JOANN SARRUBI, M.D.; KIRK WEBER, M.D., Defendants. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Cross-claimant/Third Party Plaintiff,
v.
HAWAII HEALTH SYSTEMS CORPORATION, Third Party Defendant, KIRK WEBER, M.D.; JOANN SARUBBI, M.D.; and JAMES MORRISON, M.D., Cross-claim Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART THIRD PARTY DEFENDANT HAWAII HEALTH SYSTEMS CORPORATION’S MOTION TO DISMISS

          Derrick R. Watson United States District Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         In this medical malpractice action, Defendant Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (“HHSC”) seeks to dismiss the United States’ third-party claim for contribution as barred by Hawaii Revised Statutes (“HRS”) § 663-10.5. Because Section 663-10.5 cannot be read in the expansive way urged by HHSC, the motion to dismiss is DENIED. The motion is also DENIED to the extent it alternatively seeks to stay or sever the Third-Party Complaint. The motion is GRANTED as to the United States’ third-party claim for indemnity.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs Rosenda Samuel, individually and as administrator of the Estate of Rienda Supu, and Lewis Samuel have asserted claims in both state and federal court against three individual physicians and two hospitals that treated their eight-year-old daughter, Rienda Supu, in August and September of 2012. Rienda first received treatment on August 29, 2012 at the Bay Clinic, Inc. dba Hilo Bay Clinic, a federally qualified community health center, which must be sued in federal court under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1346 and §§ 2671-2680. Complaint ¶¶ 1, 9, 18. She received subsequent treatment from private physicians James Morrison, M.D., Joann Sarubbi, M.D., and Kirk Webber, M.D., and from state-employed health care providers at Hilo Medical Center, a hospital operated by HHSC, an agency and instrumentality of the State of Hawaii under HRS Chapter 323F. Complaint ¶¶ 24-31. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants’ collective negligence caused Rienda to suffer a series of injuries resulting from the initial failure to diagnose her group A streptococcal infection, culminating in acute rheumatic carditis and her death on September 18, 2012. Complaint ¶¶ 34-41.

         In this federal action, Plaintiffs allege claims for medical negligence (Count I); respondeat superior liability (Count II); negligent failure to provide informed consent (Count III); negligent infliction of emotional distress (“NIED”) (Count IV); and negligent hiring, training, retention, and supervision (Count V). Plaintiffs initially named HHSC as a defendant, but dismissed it from the federal action based on HHSC’s Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity. See Dkt. No. 42 (9/22/15 Notice of Dismissal). In the parallel state court action, Plaintiffs bring the same claims against HHSC and Drs. Morrison, Sarubbi, and Webber, but not against the United States. See Samuel v. Haw. Health Sys., Civ. No. 3 CC 14-1-00422.

         On January 20, 2016, the United States filed a Third-Party Complaint against HHSC, asserting state law claims for indemnity and contribution. HHSC moves to dismiss, or alternatively, to sever and/or stay the Third-Party Complaint, pending resolution of the state court action that is currently set for trial in January 2017.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Pursuant to Ashcroft v. Iqbal, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” 555 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 570 (2007)). “[T]he tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Id. Accordingly, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         DISCUSSION

         I. The Motion Is Granted As to the Claim for Indemnity

         HHSC first moves to dismiss the United States’ indemnity claim as factually insufficient to support a legal duty to indemnify. The United States concedes that the Third-Party Complaint does not adequately state a claim for indemnity and does not oppose the dismissal of that claim. See U.S. Mem. in Opp. at 5. Accordingly, the motion is GRANTED with respect to the third-party claim for indemnity.

         II. The Motion Is Denied As to the Claim for Contribution

         HHSC also moves to dismiss the United States’ contribution claim, contending that it is barred by both HRS § 663-10.5 and by HHSC’s sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. Neither assertion withstands scrutiny.

         A. HRS ยง 663-10.5 Does Not Bar the ...


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