United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
For PEARLETTE TOUSSANT, Plaintiff: JOSEPH S. MITCHELL, III, LEAD ATTORNEY, PHILADELPHIA, PA.
For DR. PATRICIA DAY WILLIAMS, Defendant: KATHLEEN D. WILKINSON, LEAD ATTORNEY, WILSON, ELSER, MOSKOWITZ, EDELMAN & DICKER LLP, PHILADELPHIA, PA.
EDUARDO C. ROBRENO, J.
The many claims comprising this action arise out of a relationship between Pearlette Toussant (" Plaintiff" ) and Dr. Patricia Day Williams (" Defendant" ) that ran from 2011 until 2014. During that time, Defendant taught group retreat sessions attended by Plaintiff, charged Plaintiff for vocational coaching, allegedly diagnosed Plaintiff with bipolar disorder, and developed a kind of personal/therapist relationship with Plaintiff. Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction, which Plaintiff opposes. For the reasons stated below, the Court will deny the motion.
Plaintiff, an African-American female residing in Philadelphia, met Defendant, a white female, in 2011 at a two-day Chakra workshop led by Defendant, who allegedly then and at later times held herself out as a licensed physician. First Amended Complaint (" FAC" ) ¶ ¶ 10, 17. The two struck up an email dialogue wherein Defendant solicited Plaintiff to attend the Ohio-based Hope Springs Institute for a retreat Defendant led. Id. ¶ ¶ 11-12. Defendant also sent brochures advertising the retreat and other events. Id. ¶ 13. Plaintiff agreed to attend the April 2013 retreat and five others over three years, at a cost of $1,500 per session. Id. ¶ ¶ 15-16, 18. While there, she allegedly suffered race-based harassment. Id. ¶ 19. Receiving assurances from Defendant that this would not continue, the two continued their correspondence. Id. ¶ ¶ 19, 23. In May 2013, Defendant allegedly diagnosed Plaintiff with bipolar disorder over email and recommended she begin lithium treatment--a suggestion that greatly distressed Plaintiff, even after Defendant retracted the diagnosis. Id. ¶ ¶ 25-31.
Subsequently, Plaintiff agreed to pay Defendant $160 per hour in order to receive vocational/life coaching, an arrangement which continued into the fall of 2013. Id. ¶ ¶ 32-33. The coaching sessions were conducted primarily over the phone, although one occurred in Washington, D.C. Id. at ¶ ¶ 33, 35; Def.'s Aff., Def.'s Br. Ex. 3, ¶ 18. During this time, Defendant allegedly behaved inappropriately toward Plaintiff by sending intimate emails and, at a Washington, D.C., lunch/coaching session, staring at Plaintiff's breasts. Id. ¶ ¶ 33-40. At some later point, Defendant allegedly breached the coaching agreement by refused to assist Plaintiff with a job transition. Id. ¶ ¶ 60-61. In addition, Defendant allegedly later admitted to breaching Plaintiff's confidence by sharing their significant conversations with an outside party. Id. ¶ 67.
In October 2013, Plaintiff returned to Ohio for another retreat session. Id. ¶ 41. There, she allegedly suffered racial antagonism at the hands of the group and unwanted touching and harassment by Defendant. Id. ¶ ¶ 41-53. In January 2014, Defendant sent Plaintiff a letter partially refunding her retreat tuition balance and terminating their agreement. Id. ¶ ¶ 62-65, 80. Upon receiving the letter, Plaintiff became very upset, allegedly sustaining emotional, psychological, and physical injuries. Id. ¶ ¶ 65-66.
On the basis of her allegations, Plaintiff brings the following twelve claims: Breach of Contract (retreat sessions) (Count I); Breach of Contract (coaching) (Count II);
Fraud/Fraudulent Inducement (Count III); Negligence--Sexual Exploitation (Count IV); Negligence--HIPAA (Count V); Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (" IIED" ) (Count VI); Assault (Count VII); Battery (Count VIII); Unjust Enrichment (Count IX); Negligence--Unlicensed Practice of Medicine/Therapy (Count X); Negligence--Medical Malpractice (Count XI); Violation of Pennsylvania's Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act (" UTPCPA" ) (Count XII). Plaintiff requests appropriate monetary damages related to the above claims, attorneys' fees, and punitive damages.
B. Procedural History
On July 15, 2014, the Complaint was removed from the Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County. ECF No. 1. On July 22, 2014, Defendant timely filed a Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 2. On July 31, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand. ECF No. 4. Plaintiff then filed the First Amended Complaint on August 6, 2014. ECF No. 7. The Court issued an order on August 14, 2014, denying the Motion to Dismiss as moot. ECF No. 8. On August 18, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint. ECF No. 10. The Court held a hearing on August 18, 2014, wherein it denied the Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint and took the Motion to Remand under advisement for 30 days. ECF Nos. 13-14. This time period was given in hopes that the parties would stipulate to an amount in controversy less than $75,000 and, thus, to remand to state court.
Per Plaintiff's counsel's letter to the Court on September 30, 2014 (not docketed), the parties advised that they were not able to reach an agreement on the stipulation. Thereafter, on the same day, Plaintiff filed a second Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 18), in which she deleted all claims for treble damages, punitive damages, and attorneys' fees, and reduced the damages requested to a maximum of $50,000. The Court denied this motion on October 23, 2014. ECF No. 22.
On August 26, 2014, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction. ECF No. 15. Plaintiff filed her response brief on September 9, 2014 (ECF No. 16), and, on September 30, 2014, Defendant filed a Motion for Leave to File a Surreply (ECF No. 19), to which ...