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Quelet v. Smith

United States District Court, Third Circuit

January 16, 2014

JEFFREY J. QUELET, Plaintiff,
v.
LISA SMITH, CRNP; VERNON H. PRESTON, M.D.; STEPHEN PFISTERER, MPT; HANOVER FAMILY PRACTICE ASSOCIATES, LTD; DEBRA DEANGELO, D.O.; HILLSIDE PAIN MANAGEMENT, PC YORK ADAMS PAIN SPECIALISTS, PC; BRENDAN K. BUCKLEY, D.C. t/d/b/a BUCKLEY CHIROPRACTIC CENTER; and HANOVER REHABILITATION CENTER d/b/a YORK STREET REHAB a/k/a HANOVER HOSPITAL Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

CHRISTOPHER C. CONNER, Chief District Judge.

Plaintiff Jeffrey J. Quelet ("Quelet") filed the above-captioned action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, alleging claims of negligence from medical malpractice. (Doc. 1). On September 24, 2012, District Judge Blake transferred the above-captioned action to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). (Doc. 34). Presently before the court are six motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, filed by the following defendants: (1) Deborah DeAngelo, D.O. and Hillside Pain Management, PC/York Adams Pain Specialist, P.C. (Doc. 100), (2) Brendan K. Buckley, D.C. t/d/b/a Buckley Chiropractic Center, P.C. (Doc. 102), (3) Hanover Rehabilitation Center d/b/a York Street Rehab a/k/a Hanover Hospital, Inc. (Doc. 104), (4) Vernon Preston, M.D. and Hanover Family Practice Associates, LTD (Doc. 106), (5) Lisa Smith, C.R.N.P. (Doc. 110), and (6) Stephen Pfisterer, MPT (Doc. 112) (collectively, the "Defendants"). For the reasons that follow, the court will grant Defendants' motions to dismiss.

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 allegations 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).

Plaintiff Jeffrey J. Quelet, currently domiciled in Maryland, was involved in an automobile accident on May 18, 2009 in Westminster, Maryland. (Doc. 99 ¶¶ 2-3, 13). Quelet discussed soreness from the automobile accident with defendant Lisa Smith, C.R.N.P. ("Smith"), who diagnosed Quelet with whiplash and referred him to physical therapy. ( Id. ¶¶ 15-16). Smith is a licensed nurse practitioner employed by defendant Hanover Family Practice Associates at all times relevant to the complaint. ( Id. ¶ 4). Defendant Vernon H. Preston, M.D., a licensed physician, operates defendant Hanover Family Practice Associates, LTD, which is incorporated in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. ( Id. ¶¶ 5, 7).

On May 22, 2009, Quelet began physical therapy with defendant Stephen Pfisterer, MPT ("Pfisterer"), who is a physical therapist employed by Hanover Family Practice Associates at all times relevant to the complaint. ( Id. ¶¶ 6, 17). After evaluating and discussing Quelet's symptoms, Pfisterer diagnosed Quelet's condition as "elbow pain" and began physical therapy to strengthen his arms. ( Id. ¶¶ 17-18). On the same day, Quelet discussed his symptoms with defendant Brendan K. Buckley, D.C. ("Dr. Buckley"), who began a regimen of passive therapy to reduce Quelet's neck, back, and shoulder pain and muscle spasms. ( Id. ¶¶ 19-20). Dr. Buckley is a licensed chiropractor doing business as Buckley Chiropractic Center, P.C. under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. ( Id. ¶ 8).

During several follow-up appointments, Quelet informed Smith that the pain was worsening and requested an MRI to determine the cause of the pain. ( Id. ¶¶ 22-29). In or about July 2009, an MRI was conducted only on Quelet's shoulder and lower back and, after reviewing the results, Smith referred Quelet back to physical therapy with Pfisterer. ( Id. ¶¶ 30-31). Over the next few months, Quelet attended physical therapy and chiropractic appointments, but he continued to experience increasing pain. ( Id. ¶ 33).

On November 3, 2009, Quelet was referred to defendants Deborah DeAngelo, D.O. ("Dr. DeAngelo") and Hillside Pain Management. ( Id. ¶¶ 38-39). Dr. DeAngelo is a licensed physician employed by Hillside Pain Management, PC/York Adams Pain Specialist, P.C., which is incorporated in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. ( Id. ¶¶ 9-10). Quelet requested an MRI on his neck twice and reported spreading pain as well as numbness and tingling in his extremities. ( Id. ¶¶ 40, 42, 44-45). Dr. DeAngelo injected Quelet with three separate cervical epidurals over three months without any progress. ( Id. ¶¶ 41-47). Eventually, Dr. DeAngelo ordered an MRI on Quelet's cervical spine and further physical therapy with defendant Hanover Rehabilitation Center. ( Id. ¶¶ 50-51). The Hanover Rehabilitation Center began conducting physical therapy sessions with Quelet without reviewing the results of the MRI. ( Id. ¶ 52). Hanover Rehabilitation Center d/b/a York Street Rehab, also known as Hanover Hospital, is incorporated in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. ( Id. ¶ 11).

On February 23, 2010, Dr. DeAngelo reviewed the results of the MRI and referred Quelet for a neurosurgical evaluation. ( Id. ¶ 54). On March 4, 2010, Dr. Krzeminski at Wellspan Neurosurgery diagnosed Quelet with a cervical spondylosis with myelopathy, or a crushed spinal cord, which required immediate surgery to prevent paralysis or death. ( Id. ¶¶ 55-57). Quelet underwent a successful surgery, but he suffers from continued pain in his neck, back, and arms and deteriorated sensory functions. ( Id. ¶¶ 58-59). Quelet is permanently disabled and unable to return to work. ( Id. ¶ 62).

On June 25, 2012, Quelet filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, alleging claims of negligence due to medical malpractice. (Doc. 1). After Defendants filed motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, Quelet consented to a transfer to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. (Docs. 17, 21, 23, 26, 29). On September 24, 2012, District Judge Blake transferred the instant action to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). (Doc. 34). On May 31, 2013, the court dismissed Quelet's complaint without prejudice pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. 91). On August 5, 2013, Quelet filed an amended complaint (Doc. 99), which Defendants presently seek to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Docs. 100, 102, 104, 106, 110, 112). Defendants allege that the applicable statute of limitations bars Quelet's negligence claims. (See Docs. 101, 103, 105, 107, 111, 113).[1] The motions are fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

II. Jurisdiction and Legal Standard

The court has jurisdiction over the instant matter because the parties are completely diverse of citizenship and the amount in controversy as to all claims exceeds $75, 000. (Doc. 99 ¶ 1); see 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Gelman v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. , 583 F.3d 187, 190 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008)); see also Kanter v. Barella , 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Evancho v. Fisher , 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005)). In addition to reviewing the facts contained in the complaint, the court may also consider "matters of public record, orders, exhibits to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case." Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman , 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994); Pension Ben. Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc. , 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993).

Federal notice and pleading rules require the complaint to provide "the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Phillips , 515 F.3d at 232 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To test the sufficiency of the complaint, the court must conduct a three-step inquiry. See Santiago v. Warminster Twp. , 629 F.3d 121, 130-31 (3d Cir. 2010). In the first step, "the court must tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.'" Id . (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 675 (2009)). Next, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated; well-pleaded facts must be accepted as true, while mere legal conclusions may be disregarded. Id .; see also Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside , 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). Once the court isolates the well-pleaded factual allegations, it must determine whether they are sufficient to show a "plausible claim for relief." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556); Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555 (requiring plaintiffs to allege facts ...


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