Hanson v. Hancock County Memorial Hosp., No. C 95-3041-MWB.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
Writing for the CourtMEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Citation938 F. Supp. 1419
PartiesDianne HANSON, Plaintiff, v. HANCOCK COUNTY MEMORIAL HOSPITAL, Hancock County Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees, Lyola Tulp, Lawrence Crail, Clayton Greiman, Dean Cataldo, Dorothy Larson, Lois Schroeder, Patricia Dewaard, Steve Palmer and Al Denny, Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. C 95-3041-MWB.
Decision Date15 August 1996

938 F. Supp. 1419

Dianne HANSON, Plaintiff,
v.
HANCOCK COUNTY MEMORIAL HOSPITAL, Hancock County Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees, Lyola Tulp, Lawrence Crail, Clayton Greiman, Dean Cataldo, Dorothy Larson, Lois Schroeder, Patricia Dewaard, Steve Palmer and Al Denny, Defendants.

No. C 95-3041-MWB.

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Central Division.

August 15, 1996.


938 F. Supp. 1420
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
938 F. Supp. 1421
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
938 F. Supp. 1422
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
938 F. Supp. 1423
T.J. Braunschweig of the Braunschweig Law Firm, Algona, IA, for plaintiff Dianne Hanson

Earl W. Hill of Britt, IA, Don N. Kersten and Angela J. Ostrander of Kersten & Carlson, Fort Dodge, IA, and Jaki K. Samuelson of Whitfield & Eddy, P.L.C., Des Moines, IA, for defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 I. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND ....................................... 1424
                 II. STANDARDS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT .................................... 1425
                III. FINDINGS OF FACT .................................................. 1427
                 A. Undisputed Facts ............................................... 1427
                 B. Disputed Facts ................................................. 1429
                 IV. LEGAL ANALYSIS .................................................... 1430
                 A. The Federal "Due Process" Claim ................................ 1430
                 1. The due process "privacy" claim ............................. 1430
                 2. The "sick leave" due process claim .......................... 1432
                 B. Disposition Of State-Law Claims ................................ 1433
                 1. Absence of a federal claim .................................. 1433
                 2. Invasion of privacy ......................................... 1434
                 a. Forms of the tort asserted here .......................... 1435
                 b. Disposition of Hanson's invasion of privacy claims ....... 1436
                 3. Conversion of "property" interest in privacy ................ 1438
                 a. The "conversion" cause of action under Iowa law .......... 1438
                 b. "Conversion" of "intangible" interests ................... 1439
                 4. Intentional infliction of emotional distress ................ 1439
                 a. Elements of the tort ..................................... 1440
                 b. Outrageousness ........................................... 1440
                 c. Emotional distress ....................................... 1442
                 5. Discharge in violation of public policy ..................... 1443
                 a. Retaliation based on sick leave .......................... 1445
                

938 F. Supp. 1424
b. Retaliation based on an assertion of confidentiality ...... 1445 6. Malicious prosecution and abuse of process ................... 1446 a. Malicious prosecution ..................................... 1446 b. Abuse of process .......................................... 1447 c. The improper prosecution claims here ...................... 1448 V. CONCLUSION ......................................................... 1449

BENNETT, District Judge.

When a plaintiff brings as many claims as might arise from allegedly wrongful conduct of a defendant as plaintiff believes have a colorable basis in law and fact, the court finds that defendants often respond by asking the court, in motions to dismiss or for summary judgment, to separate the wheat from the chaff. Here, just prior to trial, the court must decide which of seven claims, some of which have two variants, should proceed to trial. The plaintiff alleges wrongful conduct against her by a hospital where she was both an employee and a patient. She alleges that this wrongful conduct ultimately led to her termination as an employee of the hospital. The claims alleged include federal constitutional claims of violation of due process, and state law claims of invasion of privacy, conversion, intentional infliction of emotional distress, discharge in violation of public policy, malicious prosecution, and abuse of process. The hospital asserts that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on all seven claims.

I. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Dianne Hanson filed her complaint in this matter in the Iowa District Court for Hancock County on April 11, 1995, alleging seven causes of action against her former employer, defendant Hancock County Memorial Hospital, its board of trustees, and members of the board or employees of the hospital. All defendants are referred to collectively herein as "the Hospital." The Hospital removed the action to federal court on May 8, 1995, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) and (c). Removal was on the basis that one of Hanson's causes of action, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleged violations of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, thus presenting a federal question upon which to invoke the jurisdiction of this court. All of the other claims, pendent state-law claims, were also removed. Hanson's motion to remand some or all of the claims to state court was denied, as was her motion for default judgment.

The Hospital answered the original complaint on May 26, 1995, denying the seven claims stated therein. The original seven causes of action allege wrongful conduct on the part of the Hospital against Hanson in her status as both a patient and an employee. Hanson alleges that the Hospital's wrongful conduct ultimately led to Hanson's termination as an employee of the Hospital on October 20, 1994. On January 12, 1996, a magistrate judge of this district granted Hanson's motion to amend the complaint to add an eighth cause of action, captioned as an "Amendment To Petition" and designated as another "Count I." The "Amendment To Petition" was filed on January 16, 1996.1 However, the court granted the Hospital's motion to dismiss this eighth cause of action on April 15, 1996. Thus, only the original seven causes of action are before the court.

Precisely what those seven causes of action are is not altogether clear from the briefing of the parties. However, the court takes recourse, at least in the first instance, to the complaint itself for identification of Hanson's claims. Count I alleges breach of Hanson's right to privacy while a patient at the Hospital. Hanson alleges that breach of her right of privacy resulted in the Hospital, as her employer, terminating her from her position

938 F. Supp. 1425
in the Hospital's dietary and food service department. Count II alleges that the defendants "refused to maintain said confidentiality of Hanson's hospital patient records and converted hospital patient information for their own use." Complaint, ¶ 5. The complaint alleges that the value of the converted "property" right to privacy is $272,380.00, and therefore seeks this sum as actual damages. Complaint, ¶¶ 5-7, and prayer. Count III is a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress, in which Hanson asserts that the Hospital acted outrageously in two ways. First, she alleges that the Hospital acted outrageously in making public information concerning her stay in the Hospital after she requested absolute confidentiality. Second, she alleges it was outrageous for the Hospital to use the confidential information for the purpose of firing her rather than for her medical treatment. Count IV is a claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. The complaint alleges that Hanson's termination was motivated by the Hospital's belief that Hanson would make a claim for sick leave benefits. In the alternative, Hanson alleges that the Hospital fired her in retaliation for her efforts to maintain her right to confidentiality of her hospitalization. Count V asserts a claim of malicious prosecution, founded on allegations that the Hospital wrongfully prosecuted an action to deny Hanson unemployment benefits, but that the proceedings in question, administrative proceedings before the Iowa Department of Job Service, ended favorably to her. Count VI, which is founded on similar allegations, alleges that the Hospital abused legal process in the Job Service proceedings to compel Hanson to disclose confidential information concerning her stay at the Hospital. Count VII states the federal claim upon which the removal jurisdiction of this court is predicated. It asserts a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of Hanson's Fourteenth Amendment right to due process, because Hanson alleges that she was deprived of her property right to sick leave benefits without a pre-deprivation hearing. Hanson seeks actual and punitive damages on each of these claims

Defendants moved for summary judgment on all of Hanson's claims on June 3, 1996. Owing to various extensions, and the piecemeal filing of portions of her response,2 Hanson's resistance to the motion for summary judgment was not completed until August 8, 1996. The court must therefore rule upon the motion promptly, in light of the imminent trial of this matter, which is scheduled to begin September 3, 1996. The court's consideration of the motion begins with a recitation of the standards for summary judgment, continues with a discussion of the undisputed and disputed facts as demonstrated by the record in this case, and turns finally to the legal analysis of each of Hanson's claims.

II. STANDARDS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals recognizes "that summary judgment is a drastic remedy and must be exercised with extreme care to prevent taking genuine issues of fact away from juries." Wabun-Inini v. Sessions, 900 F.2d 1234, 1238 (8th Cir.1990). On the other hand, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure have authorized for nearly 60 years "motions for summary judgment upon proper showings of the lack of a genuine, triable issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2555, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Thus, "summary judgment procedure is properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather as an integral part...

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26 practice notes
  • Dethmers Mfg. Co. v. Automatic Equip. Mfg. Co., No. C 96-4061-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • September 29, 1998
    ...demonstrate the narrowness of the `intangibles' included within the scope of a conversion claim." Hanson v. Hancock County Mem. Hosp., 938 F.Supp. 1419, 1439 (N.D.Iowa 1996) (citing Hurst v. Dezer/Reyes Corp., 82 F.3d 232, 235-36 (8th Cir.1996), which held that under New York law of convers......
  • Coonley v. Fortis Benefit Ins. Co., No. C 95-3077-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • January 21, 1997
    ...1996); Valentine v. American Home Shield Corp., 939 F.Supp. 1376, 1380-82 (N.D.Iowa 1996); Hanson v. Hancock County Mem. Hosp., 938 F.Supp. 1419, 1425-27 (N.D.Iowa 1996); and Coulter v. CIGNA Property & Cas. Cos., 934 F.Supp. 1101, 1106-07 (N.D.Iowa 3. The parties' statements of facts do no......
  • Wahpeton Canvas Co. v. Bremer, No. C 93-4093-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • March 28, 1997
    ...1996); Valentine v. American Home Shield Corp., 939 F.Supp. 1376, 1380-82 (N.D.Iowa 1996); Hanson v. Hancock County Mem. Hosp., 938 F.Supp. 1419, 1425-27 (N.D.Iowa 1996); and Coulter v. CIGNA Property & Cas. Cos., 934 F.Supp. 1101, 1106-07 (N.D.Iowa 1996). This court therefore will not repe......
  • Lyons v. Midwest Glazing, L.L.C., No. C01-3071-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • December 18, 2002
    ...claim. As this court has previously noted, "[t]he second element `is difficult to establish.'" Hanson v. Hancock County Mem'l Hosp., 938 F.Supp. 1419, 1448 (N.D.Iowa 1996) (quoting Johnson v. Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co., 533 N.W.2d 203, 209 (Iowa 1995)). The second element requires proof that......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
26 cases
  • Dethmers Mfg. Co. v. Automatic Equip. Mfg. Co., No. C 96-4061-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • September 29, 1998
    ...demonstrate the narrowness of the `intangibles' included within the scope of a conversion claim." Hanson v. Hancock County Mem. Hosp., 938 F.Supp. 1419, 1439 (N.D.Iowa 1996) (citing Hurst v. Dezer/Reyes Corp., 82 F.3d 232, 235-36 (8th Cir.1996), which held that under New York law of convers......
  • Coonley v. Fortis Benefit Ins. Co., No. C 95-3077-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • January 21, 1997
    ...1996); Valentine v. American Home Shield Corp., 939 F.Supp. 1376, 1380-82 (N.D.Iowa 1996); Hanson v. Hancock County Mem. Hosp., 938 F.Supp. 1419, 1425-27 (N.D.Iowa 1996); and Coulter v. CIGNA Property & Cas. Cos., 934 F.Supp. 1101, 1106-07 (N.D.Iowa 3. The parties' statements of facts do no......
  • Wahpeton Canvas Co. v. Bremer, No. C 93-4093-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • March 28, 1997
    ...1996); Valentine v. American Home Shield Corp., 939 F.Supp. 1376, 1380-82 (N.D.Iowa 1996); Hanson v. Hancock County Mem. Hosp., 938 F.Supp. 1419, 1425-27 (N.D.Iowa 1996); and Coulter v. CIGNA Property & Cas. Cos., 934 F.Supp. 1101, 1106-07 (N.D.Iowa 1996). This court therefore will not repe......
  • Lyons v. Midwest Glazing, L.L.C., No. C01-3071-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • December 18, 2002
    ...claim. As this court has previously noted, "[t]he second element `is difficult to establish.'" Hanson v. Hancock County Mem'l Hosp., 938 F.Supp. 1419, 1448 (N.D.Iowa 1996) (quoting Johnson v. Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co., 533 N.W.2d 203, 209 (Iowa 1995)). The second element requires proof that......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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