United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
J. PAPPERT, J.
Bilinski sued Dr. Samuel Houston, Wills Eye Hospital and
Retinovitreous Associates alleging various tort claims under
Pennsylvania law, primarily that Houston negligently and with
total disregard to his safety operated on his right eye
without his consent. Each Defendant moved to dismiss some of
Bilinski’s claims, and the Court grants in part and
denies in part each Motion to Dismiss. Houston and
Retinovitreous Associates also filed a motion for summary
judgment, which the Court summarily denies without prejudice
because it is premature.
of 2014, Bilinski scheduled an appointment at Wills Eye
Hospital (“Hospital”). His appointment was with Dr.
David Reed “for a follow-up evaluation on his left eye
and to get cleared for cataract glasses.” (Am. Compl.
¶ 8, ECF No. 138.) Bilinski says that he had neither
experienced nor “mentioned any issues with his right
eye to Dr. Reed or any other doctor in the months”
before his appointment. (Id. at ¶ 20.)
Bilinski arrived at the Hospital, he met with Dr. Houston
instead of Dr. Reed, who was unavailable. See
(id. at ¶¶ 10–11). At that time,
“Houston was a Vitreoretinal Procedure Fellow” at
the Hospital, (id. at ¶ 13), and an employee of
Retinovitreous Associates, see (id. at
¶ 7). Houston had neither treated nor met
Bilinski before. See (id. at ¶
the appointment, Bilinski allegedly told Houston that
“nothing was wrong with his eyes at that time.”
(Id. at ¶ 15.) But after looking at
Bilinski’s right eye, Houston allegedly
“exclaimed, ‘Oh, oh, oh, ’”
(id. at ¶ 21), and insisted that Bilinski
follow him to another room, see (id. at
¶¶ 22, 23). When Bilinski declined to do so,
Houston “physically grabbed Mr. Bilinski’s hand
and pulled him into another room.” (Id. at
¶ 25.) Bilinski claims that Houston then
“negligently performed a laser procedure” on his
right eye against Bilinski’s wishes and without
explaining the procedure or its potential complications.
(Id. at ¶¶ 27–28, 31.)
procedure allegedly left Bilinski “in physical pain and
shaking, ” (id. at ¶ 30), and with
deteriorated vision in his right eye, see
(id. at ¶ 36). In fact, Bilinski says that his
“right eye [has] never regained the level of vision it
had before the procedure.” (Id. at ¶ 50.)
As a result, Bilinski claims that he is blind in his right
eye-legally blind overall because that was his good eye-and
suffers lingering physical, mental and emotional harm from
the operation. See (id. at ¶¶
Amended Complaint alleges in Count I that Houston committed a
medical battery by performing the “laser procedure on
[his] right eye” without consent. (Id. at
¶ 56.) Count II contends that Houston’s negligence
in performing the procedure caused “severe and
permanent” harm. (Id. at ¶ 60.) Bilinski
alleges in Count III that Houston’s conduct amounted to
gross negligence, and Count IV asserts against Houston a
lack-of-informed-consent claim. See (id. at
¶¶ 62, 66–70). As for the Hospital and
Retinovitreous Associates, Bilinski advances theories of
agency (Count V) and vicarious liability (Count VI) to hold
them liable for Houston’s conduct. See
(id. at ¶¶ 71–83). He asks for
compensatory and punitive damages on all counts.
Defendant moves to dismiss certain parts of the Amended
Complaint. They all move to dismiss Bilinski’s
gross-negligence claim in Count III and his request for
punitive damages on all counts. See (Houston &
RA Mot. to Dismiss ¶ 20, ECF No. 139); (Hosp. Mot. to
Dismiss pp. 14–15, ECF No. 140). Retinovitreous
Associates and the Hospital move to dismiss the agency and
vicarious-liability claims in Counts V and VI as those counts
relate to Bilinski’s medical-battery and
lack-of-informed-consent claims. See (id.
at 9–12); (Houston & RA Mot. to Dismiss ¶ 22).
No. Defendant moves to dismiss Count II.
avoid dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6), a complaint must “state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is facially
plausible if the plaintiff pleads facts from which the Court
can infer “that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Though this “plausibility
standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,
’” it demands “more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”
Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
plausibility under Twombly and Iqbal is a
three-step process. See Connelly v. Lane Const.
Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016). Step one is to
“take note of the elements the plaintiff must plead to
state a claim.” Id. (alterations omitted)
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675). Next, the Court
“should identify allegations that, ‘because they
are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the
assumption of truth.’” Id. (quoting
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). Finally, for all
“well-pleaded factual allegations, the court should
assume their veracity, ” draw all reasonable inferences
from them “and then determine whether they plausibly
give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id.
(alterations omitted) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
679). If the well-pleaded facts do not nudge the
“claims across the line from conceivable to plausible,
” the Court must dismiss the complaint.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.