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Cabales v. Morgan

United States District Court, D. Alaska

May 21, 2015

JACLYN CABALES and JONATHAN CABALES, Plaintiffs,
v.
ALBERT E. MORGAN, D.C., ARCTIC CHIROPRACTIC BETHEL, LLC, and CHRISTOPHER F. TWIFORD, D.C., Defendants,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERCA, Third-Party Defendant.

ORDER AND OPINION [Re: Motion at docket 58]

JOHN W. SEDWICK, Senior District Judge.

I. MOTION PRESENTED

At docket 58, Defendant Christopher Twiford, D.C. ("Twiford") filed a motion for partial summary judgment on claims of negligent hiring and negligent supervision. Plaintiffs Jaclyn Cabales ("Cabales") and Jonathan Cabales (collectively "Plaintiffs") respond at docket 62. Twiford replies at docket 65. Oral argument was not requested and would not assist the court. II. BACKGROUND

In March of 2013, Plaintiffs filed a complaint in state court against Arctic Chiropractic Bethel, LLC ("Arctic Chiropractic"), Albert Morgan, D.C. ("Morgan"), and Twiford. Twiford is a licensed chiropractor employed at Arctic; he is also a 5% member of Arctic Chiropractic, a limited liability company. Morgan is a chiropractor who worked at Arctic Chiropractic in the spring of 2011 on a temporary basis while Twiford was on vacation.

Plaintiffs allege that on April 2, 2011, Cabales went to Arctic Chiropractic for treatment and received a chiropractic neck manipulation from Morgan.[1] The complaint alleges that Morgan damaged Cabales's right vertebral artery during his neck manipulation and that as a result of the damage she immediately vomited, felt dizzy, and began losing her vision. After contacting Cabales's husband, Jonathan Cabales, a staff member at Arctic Chiropractic, Brooke Arnett called Twiford to inform him about Cabales's symptoms, and Twiford told Arnett that Cabales should go to the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation ("YKHC") Emergency Room and that Arnett should accompany Cabales there so she could inform the hospital of the circumstances surrounding the onset of Cabales's symptoms. It is also undisputed that Arnett informed Cabales that she needed to go to the emergency room and that at some point she offered to call an ambulance for Cabales. Jonathan Cabales arrived and drove Cabales to the emergency room. Arnett also went to the emergency room as directed by Twiford.

The complaint alleges that Morgan, Twiford, and Arctic Chiropractic staff failed to inform the doctors at YKHC about Cabales's recent neck manipulation. It is undisputed, however, that Cabales herself told a nurse at YKHC about her chiropractic treatment and about her subsequent symptoms. Jonathan Cabales also told the hospital that Cabales had been at the chiropractor's office and had gotten sick. He also told staff members at YKHC that her chiropractor, Morgan, believed she could have had an aneurism. Jonathan Cabales eventually told Arnett she could go because Cabales was okay to talk for herself. The YKHC doctors diagnosed her with the flu and sent her home. Cabales returned to YKHC two days later, and the doctors then realized the seriousness of her condition and arranged to medevac her to Anchorage. During the departure preparation or during transport, Cabales suffered a seizure. The complaint alleges that Cabales's seizure and the damages stemming therefrom were the result of the negligent chiropractic care she received at Arctic.

Based on these allegations, Plaintiffs bring negligence and gross negligence/recklessness claims against Morgan and a negligence claim against Arctic Chiropractic. Additionally, Plaintiffs bring a claim of gross negligence/negligence and a claim of recklessness against Twiford in his individual capacity. The counts against Twiford allege that he owed "a duty to plaintiffs to exercise the degree of knowledge or skill of the degree of care ordinarily exercised under the circumstances by health care providers in the field or specialty in which [he] was practicing" and that he owed "a duty to plaintiffs as the person who supervised Morgan, Arctic Chiropractic and Arctic Chiropractic's staff" and that he assumed "a duty of care relative to Jaclyn through his instructions to Arctic Chiropractic" on April 2, 2011.[2] It alleges that he breached these duties by failing to make sure Plaintiffs were aware of the possible injury Cabales sustained from Morgan's treatment, to ensure that Cabales was otherwise immediately transported to the emergency room, to send the hospital Cabales's complete records, and to adequately supervise Morgan and the Arctic Chiropractic Staff.[3]

In January of 2014, Arctic filed a third-party complaint against YKHC in state court. The third-party complaint asserts a claim for "Apportionment of Damages" against YKHC under AS 09.17.080, alleging that the YKHC doctors' misdiagnosis, and the subsequent treatment delay, caused Cabales's seizure and thus at least some of the fault should be allocated to YKHC. YKHC is deemed to be part of the Indian Health Service, and thus any medical malpractice actions against YKHC are deemed to be actions against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA").[4] In June of 2014, YKHC removed the action to this court. The United States was then substituted as the third-party defendant.[5]

The United States moved to dismiss any claims for damages or monetary recovery against the United States due to Plaintiffs' failure to file a timely claim under 28 U.S.C. ยง 2401(b). The court granted the motion during an oral argument heard on December 8, 2014. The court also denied Plaintiffs' request to abstain from exercising jurisdiction over the matter. Twiford now moves for partial summary judgment as to the claims against him premised on negligent supervision and negligent hiring.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate where "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."[6] The materiality requirement ensures that "only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment."[7] Ultimately, "summary judgment will not lie if the... evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party."[8] However, summary judgment is mandated under Rule 56(c) "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial."[9]

The moving party has the burden of showing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact.[10] Where the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, the moving party need not present evidence to show that summary judgment is warranted; it need only point out the lack of any genuine dispute as to material fact.[11] Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must set forth evidence of specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial.[12] All evidence presented by the non-movant must be believed for purposes of summary judgment and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in favor of the non-movant.[13] However, the non-moving party may not rest upon mere allegations or denials, but must show that there is sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute to require a fact-finder to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial.[14]

IV. DISCUSSION

A. Negligent ...


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