Caraballo v. Hosp. Pavia Hato Rey, Inc.

Decision Date28 February 2019
Docket NumberCivil No. 14-1738 (DRD)
Citation377 F.Supp.3d 99
Parties Yomayra Delgado CARABALLO, personally and in representation of her minor children B.O.G.D. and M.G.D.; Juan Ramon Delgado Caraballo; Vanessa Delgado Caraballo; Juan Delgado Gonzalez, Plaintiff(s), v. HOSPITAL PAVIA HATO REY, INC., alternatively, John Doe Corporation d/b/a Hospital Pavia Hato Rey; APS Healthcare Puerto Rico, Inc., alternatively, Jane Doe Corporation d/b/a APS Healthcare Puerto Rico ("APS"); Marjorie Acosta-Guillot; Nilsa Lopez, Defendant(s).
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Puerto Rico

Hatuey A. Infante-Castellanos, Hatuey Infante Law Offices, PSC, Wilbert Mendez-Marrero, Wilbert Mendez Marrero, ESQ, San Juan, PR, for Plaintiff(s)

Gloria M. De-Corral-Hernandez, De Corral & De Mier, LLP, Diego Corral-Gonzalez, Harry Anduze-Montano, Harry Anduze Montano Law Office, Jose A. Miranda-Daleccio, Miranda Cardenas & Cordova, Jose L. Gonzalez-Castaner, Gonzalez Castaner, CSP, San Juan, PR Anselmo Irizarry-Irizarry, Matta & Matta PSC, Ponce, PR, Magaly Rodriguez-Quinones, Bufete Vazquez Irizarry, PSC, Carolina, PR Juan J. Vilella-Janeiro, Vilella Janeiro Law Office, Guaynabo, PR, Jose A. Morales-Boscio, for Defendant(s)

OPINION AND ORDER

DANIEL R. DOMINGUEZ, Senior United States District JudgePending before the Court are the following motions: (a) APS Healthcare of Puerto Rico, Inc. 's ("APS Healthcare") Motion for Summary Judgment filed at Docket No. 141; (b) Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition to Defendant APS Healthcare of Puerto Rico, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment, at Docket No. 141 , filed at Docket No. 155; (c) Reply to Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition , filed at Docket No. 158. For the reasons set forth below, the APS Healthcare's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

Factual and Procedural Background

The instant action was filed on September 30, 2014, and the First Amended Complaint was filed on October 3, 2018, at Docket No. 6. The instant case constitutes a federal question case, wherein the Plaintiffs allege several violations arising under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd, as well as, 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a) ; or in the alternative a federal diversity case, under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Plaintiffs further request that the Court exercise supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367, as to all personal Puerto Rico damages claims brought under 31 L.P.R.A. §§ 5141, 5142 of the Laws of Puerto Rico. Plaintiffs allege that venue is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b), as the matter in controversy exceeds, exclusive of interest and costs, the amount of $ 75,000.00.

In a nutshell, on October 1, 2012, plaintiffs Yomayra and Juan Delgado Caraballo found their mother, Natividad Caraballo Caraballo ("Mrs. Natividad Caraballo"), in a nervous condition and decided to take her to the psychiatric stabilization unit at Hospital Pavia Hato Rey Inc. ("Hospital Pavia Hato Rey"). Mrs. Natividad Caraballo had tried to commit suicide the year before, and was not taking the medications that her psychiatrist has prescribed. The nurse at Hospital Pavia Hato Rey described Mrs. Natividad Caraballo as "alert" but "anxious" and "disoriented." See Delgado-Caraballo v. Hospital Pavia Hato Rey, Inc. , 889 F.3d 30, 32 (1st Cir.2018).

Dr. Marjorie Acosta-Guillot examined Mrs. Natividad Caraballo at Hospital Pavia Hato Rey upon her arrival at the psychiatric stabilization unit on October 1, 2012, and noted that Mrs. Natividad Caraballo's psychiatric history "included a ‘suicide attempt 1 [one] year ago’ and that she had ‘poor compliance or commitment to treatment, exacerbations of depressive symptoms which included anxiety, isolation.’ " See 889 F.3d at 32. Dr. Acosta-Guillot further added that Mrs. Natividad Caraballo's "language and psychomotor skills were somewhat diminished, and diagnosed her with ‘major depression.’ " Id. at 32. Notwithstanding, Dr. Acosta-Guillot found that Mrs. Natividad Caraballo "showed good hygiene, demonstrated logical thought processes, and exhibited no suicidal or homicidal inclinations." Id. at 32.

After examining Mrs. Natividad Caraballo, Dr. Acosta-Guillot was convinced that Mrs. Natividad Caraballo "did not meet the criteria for admission and ... discharged her with instructions that she take her meds [medications] and attend an appointment at an outpatient clinic with APS Healthcare of Puerto Rico ("APS") scheduled for October 3." 889 F.3d at 32.

The record shows that Mrs. Natividad Caraballo attended her appointment at APS on October 3, 2012, as scheduled. However, on that same date during the morning hours, and prior to attending the APS appointment, Mrs. Natividad Caraballo was informed of the passing of her mother-in-law, a person close to her, who has passed away due to cancer and diabetes diseases. See 889 F.3d at 32. Mrs. Natividad Caraballo was accompanied by her daughter Yomayra Delgado Caraballo ("Yomayra") to the APS appointment on October 3, 2012. Id. Mrs. Natividad Caraballo was evaluated by Dr. Nilsa Lopez and "asked her [Mrs. Natividad Caraballo] to continue taking her meds [medications], and scheduled some follow-up appointments." Id. at 32. Unfortunately, Mrs. Natividad Caraballo took her life the next day, October 4, 2012. Mrs. Natividad Caraballo was 52 years old. Id. at 32.

Plaintiffs filed the instant action on September 30, 2014. On March 31, 2017, this Court granted summary judgment on behalf of Hospital Pavia Hato Rey. The Court further dismissed without prejudice the plaintiffs' survivorship EMTALA claim against Hospital Pavia Hato Rey; dismissed with prejudice the EMTALA claim against APS Healthcare Puerto Rico Inc.; and, dismissed without prejudice the remaining of Plaintiffs' supplemental Puerto Rico law claims. An appeal was taken on May 30, 2017. On May 7, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ("First Circuit") entered its Opinion , vacating in part and remanding for further proceedings. The First Circuit specifically held:

Our bottom line: We let the summary judgment for APS on the EMTALA claim stand (because plaintiffs don't attack it). But we vacate summary judgment for Hospital Pavia on the EMTALA claim, leaving it to the parties and the judge to work through the joinder and personal-damages issues. And we also vacate the dismissal of the local law claims, leaving it to the parties and the judge to work through the joinder and personal-damages issues. And we also vacate the dismissal of the local-law claims, leaving it to the principals to puzzle out any and all questions related to those claims.
Vacated in part and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. Costs on appeal to plaintiffs .

889 F.3d at 40.

On July 19, 2018, the Court held a Status Conference, and ordered Plaintiffs to file an amended complaint to include the indispensable parties that were not included in the original complaint, as they are direct heirs of the Estate of Natividad Caraballo Caraballo. The Court emphasized to the parties of their strict compliance with the Opinion and Judgment entered by the First Circuit, on May 7, 2018, and the Mandate entered on May 31, 2018. See Docket entries No. 134, 135, 138. See also Minutes of July 19, 2018, at Docket No. 142.

Issues

The issues before the Court are: (a) whether the Court should dismiss the local law claims as to APS, such as the plaintiffs-heirs of Mrs. Natividad Caraballo and/or other family members who are subject to the joinder of the indispensable parties as heirs; and, if so, (b) whether the dismissal of the local law claims should be with or without prejudice.1

Applicable Law and Discussion
A. The Motion for Summary Judgment Standard .

In Miceli v. Jetblue Airways Corp. , 914 F.3d 73, 80-81 (1st Cir. 2019) (Panel composed by Circuit Judges Torruella, Lynch, and Selya, who authored the opinion ), the Court held:

Summary judgment is warranted if the record, construed in the light most flattering to the nonmovant, "presents no genuine issue as to any material fact and reflects the movant's entitlement to judgment as a matter of law." McKenney v. Mangino , 873 F.3d 75, 80 (1st Cir.2017), cert. denied , ––– U.S. ––––, 138 S.Ct. 1311, 200 L.Ed.2d 475 (2018). When a plaintiff opposes summary judgment, she [plaintiff] bears "the burden of producing specific facts sufficient to deflect the swing of the summary judgment scythe." Mulvihill v. Top-Flite Golf Co. , 335 F.3d 15, 19 (1st Cir.2003). For this reason, she [plaintiff] cannot rely on "conclusory allegations, improbable inferences, acrimonious invective, or rank speculation." Ahern v. Shinseki , 629 F.3d 49, 54 (1st Cir.2010).

In the instant case, the First Circuit specifically held:

We let the summary judgment for APS on the EMTALA claim stand (because plaintiffs don't attack it).... And we also vacate the dismissal of the local law claims, leaving it to the principals to puzzle out any and all questions related to those claims.

See Delgado-Caraballo v. Hospital Pavia Hato Rey, Inc. , 889 F.3d at 40.

On July 19, 2018, APS moved the Court for summary judgment prior to the Status Conference held on even date. APS' Motion for Summary Judgment was filed at Docket No. 141. In a nutshell, APS moved the Court to dismiss with prejudice all the remaining local claims under Art. 1802 of the Puerto Rico Civil Code, 13 L.P.R.A § 5141, as they are time barred, and further, plaintiffs' claims against APS Healthcare under EMTALA have been dismissed with prejudice. See Docket No. 141, p.2.

APS first alleges that the instant Complaint which was filed on September 30, 2014, "was filed after the expiration of the applicable one year statute of limitations period 31 L.P.R.A. § 5298 ] under applicable law." Id. "Mrs. Caraballo's death occurred on October 4, 2012, and the Complaint was filed on September 30, 2014." Id. Second, "Plaintiffs' claims lack any causality as to this particular codefendant [APS]," as plaintiffs failed to amend the Complaint to include "the...

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    ...person must have both notice of [his] injury and knowledge of the likely identity of the tortfeasor." Caraballo v. Hosp. Pavia Hato Rey Inc., 377 F. Supp. 3d 99, 116 (D.P.R. 2019) (citing Tokyo Marine, 142 F.3d at 3 ). When plaintiff brings an action more than a year after the injury took p......
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    ...statute of limitations for personal damages can be tolled by presenting an extrajudicial claim. See Caraballo v. Hosp. Pavia Hato Rey, Inc., 377 F. Supp. 3d 99, 115-116 (D.P.R. 2019) (citing PR Laws Ann. tit. 31 § 5303). To effectively toll the statute of limitations, extrajudicial claims m......
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    ...person must have both notice of [her] injury and knowledge of the likely identity of the tortfeasor." Caraballo v. Hosp. Pavía Hato Rey Inc., 377 F. Supp.3d 99, 116 (D.P.R. 2019) (citing Tokyo Marine & Fire Ins. Co. v. Pérez & Cia., de Puerto Rico, Inc., 142 F.3d 1, 3 (1st Cir. 1998). Accor......
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