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Quelet v. Preston

United States District Court, Third Circuit

May 31, 2013




Presently before the court in the above-captioned matter are the motions to dismiss of defendants Deborah DeAngelo and Hillside Pain Management, PC (Doc. 56), Hanover Rehabilitation Center (Doc. 45), Stephen Phisterer (Doc. 64), Lisa Smith, Vernon Preston, and Hanover Family Practice Associates (Doc. 67), and Brendan Buckley (Doc. 75), and the motions to strike of Deborah DeAngelo and Hillside Pain Management (Doc. 62), and Hanover Rehabilitation Center (Doc. 59). For the reasons to be discussed, the court will grant the motions to dismiss in part and deny them in part, and deny the motions to strike.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

The instant motions to dismiss come before the court pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Accordingly, the court will "accept all well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable" to the plaintiff. Carino v. Stefan , 376 F.3d 156, 159 (3d Cir. 2004).

Jeffrey J. Quelet is a resident of Maryland. Defendant Lisa Smith is a licensed nurse practitioner, formerly employed by defendant Hanover Family Practice Associates ("Hanover Family Practice"). Defendant Vernon H. Preston, M.D., is a licensed physician was also formerly employed by Hanover Family Practice. Defendant Stephen Pfisterer, MPT, is a physical therapist employed by Hanover Family Practice. Defendant Brendan K. Buckley, D.C., is a licensed chiropractor doing business as Buckley Chiropractic Center, P.C. ("Buckley Chiropractic"). Defendant Debra DeAngelo, D.O., is a licensed physician employed by Hillside. Hanover Family Practice, Buckley Chiropractic, Hillside Pain Management, PC ("Hillside"), and Hanover Rehabilitation Center ("Hanover Rehabilitation") are Pennsylvania corporations doing business in Hanover, Pennsylvania.

The complaint in this matter is largely devoid of factual allegations. It is alleged that, on May 18, 2009, Quelet was injured in a car accident that occurred at the intersection of Route 97 and Airport Drive in Westminster, Maryland. He brings six claims, four for medical malpractice (Counts I, II, V, and VI), and two for respondeat superior liability (Counts III and IV). Defendants in this case can be divided into four groups. The first is composed of Hanover Family Practice and those it employed at all times relevant to the complaint: Smith, Preston, and Pfisterer. Count I alleges that they committed medical malpractice, and Count III asserts a claim of respondeat superior liability against Hanover Family Practice, on the theory that Smith, Preston, and Pfisterer committed negligent acts or omissions in the scope of their employment. The second group is composed of Hillside and its employee DeAngelo, both accused of medical malpractice in Count II, and Hillside with respondeat superior liability in Count IV, based upon DeAngelo's allegedly negligent conduct. Counts V and VI allege medical malpractice against Buckley and Hanover Rehabilitation, respectively.

Against each of the defendants accused of medical malpractice, Quelet repeats the same boilerplate allegations, which will be discussed in detail infra. The accusations differ only in the relevant time period: Hanover Family Practice, Smith, Preston, Pfisterer, Buckley, and Hanover Rehabilitation treated Quelet from May 2009 through March 2010; Hillside and DeAngelo treated him from November 2009 through February 2010.

Quelet first filed this action in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, on June 25, 2012. The defendants moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. On September 10, 2012, Quelet consented to transfer, and by order dated September 24, 2012, Judge Catherine C. Blake transferred this matter to the Middle District of Pennsylvania.[1]

On October 16, 2012, Quelet filed a certificate of merit relative to his malpractice claim against Stephen Pfisterer. (See Doc. 42). Filing a certificate of merit is a necessary prerequisite to a medical malpractice action in Pennsylvania. Quelet also filed certificates of merit as to DeAngelo (Doc. 50), Hanover Rehabilitation (Doc. 51), Buckley (Doc. 52), Hillside (Doc. 53), Preston (Doc. 54), Smith (Doc. 55), and Hanover Family Practice (Doc. 57) on October 26, 2012. DeAngelo and Hillside moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim, arguing that Quelet's failure to file a certificate of merit in a timely fashion was fatal to his complaint. Five days later, DeAngelo and Hillside moved to strike Quelet's certificates of merit as untimely. Hanover Rehabilitation moved to strike its certificate on October 29, Pfisterer and Hanover Family Practice moved to dismiss on October 31, and Buckley moved to dismiss on November 12.

II. Jurisdiction and Standard of Review

The court has jurisdiction over the instant matter because the parties are completely diverse of citizenship and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. ยง 1332(a)(1).

Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of complaints that fail to assert a claim upon which relief can be granted. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). The court must conduct a two-part analysis to determine the sufficiency of the complaint. First, the court must separate the factual matters alleged from legal conclusions asserted. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside , 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). The court must take all facts pled in the complaint as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Id. at 210-11. Second, the court must determine whether the factual matters alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief." Id. at 211 (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009)). The analysis is "context-specific" and the court must "draw on its judicial experience and common sense" in making its determination whether the facts averred in the complaint suggest "more than the mere possibility of misconduct." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 679.

III. Discussion

The instant motions, though numerous, in essence present three questions for the court's consideration. First, the court must determine whether Quelet's certificates of merit were timely filed under Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1042.3, considering that this case was initiated in the District of Maryland, and if not, whether equity requires excusing Quelet's untimely filing. Second, assuming that the certificates were timely, the court must determine whether Quelet's licensed professional, Dr. Donlin M. Long, is qualified to opine on the propriety of defendants' conduct, as Rule 1042.3 requires. Third, if the certificates were timely and Dr. Long is ...

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