Young v. United States

Decision Date02 June 2016
Docket NumberCivil. No 12-5215 (RBK/AMD)
Citation190 F.Supp.3d 378
Parties Tamika Young, as parent and natural guardian of J.Y., a minor, Plaintiff, v. United States of America; Heather Crawford, D.O.; Shaurin Patel, M.D.; Beverly E Tew, M.D.; and Cooper University Hospital, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of New Jersey

Derek R. Layser, Friedman Schuman, P.C., Jenkintown, PA, Joseph Marano, Courtney C. Barbacane, Layser & Freiwald PC, Audubon, NJ, for Plaintiff.

Daniel J. Gibbons, Office of the United States Atorney, Newark, NJ, Elizabeth Ann Pascal, U.S. Department of Justice, Camden, NJ, Carolyn R. Sleeper, Parker McCay PA, Mount Laurel, NJ, for Defendants.

OPINION

KUGLER, United States District Judge

This lawsuit for medical malpractice under the Federal Tort Claims Act stems from the care and treatment of Plaintiff Tamika Young ("Young") during the end of her pregnancy and delivery of J.Y., her child. Young was treated at Cooper University Hospital ("CUH") by doctors employed by CUH (collectively, the "Cooper Defendants"), and by doctors employed by CAMcare Health Corporation ("CAMcare"). This matter comes before the Court on Defendant United States (the "Government")'s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment ("Government's Motion" [Dkt. No. 115] ) on the basis that the Government is entitled to a cap on damages based on the New Jersey Charitable Immunities Act ("NJCIA"), N.J.S.A. 2A:53A–7, et seq. For the reasons that follow, the Government's Motion will be GRANTED .

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The Court previously set forth the factual background in its Opinion of December 2, 2015 [Dkt. No. 104], reported at Young v. United States , 152 F.Supp.3d 337, 2015 WL 9592442 (D.N.J. Dec. 2, 2015) (" Immunity Opinion "). The facts that are relevant to deciding the Government's Motion are recited again here. As this is a motion for summary judgment, all inferences are drawn in favor of Young, the non-moving party. Trinity Indus, Inc. v. Chi. Bridge & Iron Co. , 735 F.3d 131, 134–35 (3d Cir.2013).

Young was treated by five doctors while at CUH due to complications from her pregnancy on April 6–7, 2009. Immunity Op. , 152 F.Supp.3d at 340–41, 2015 WL 9592442, at *1. Three were employees of CUH, and two were employees of CAMcare, a federally qualified health center ("FQHC"). Id. Ultimately, Young's child, J.Y., suffered a brain bleed, has a permanent heart murmur, and has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy

. Id.

Young timely filed this suit against the Government on August 20, 2012 for the actions of the CAMcare employees, and the Cooper Defendants were added to the case on February 12, 2014. Id. at 341–42, 2015 WL 9592442, at *2. The Government then moved to dismiss the complaint on jurisdictional grounds, arguing for absolute immunity under the NJCIA or, in the alternative, entitlement to the damages cap of the NJCIA if it was not entitled to absolute immunity. Id.

The Court determined that the Government was not entitled to absolute immunity under the NJCIA, because CAMcare was organized exclusively for hospital purposes. Id. at 347–51, 2015 WL 9592442, at *8–10. The Court then deferred judgment on the Government's request to limit damages pursuant to the damages cap provision of the NJCIA for hospitals, provided by N.J.S.A. 2A:53A–8, and permitted discovery on the issue. Id. at 350–52, 2015 WL 9592442, at *10–11. The Government has now renewed its motion, requesting that potential damages be limited to $250,000 under the NJCIA. (See generally Gov't Mot. Br. [Dkt. No. 115–1].) Young has opposed, but the Cooper Defendants have not.

In order to determine the applicability of the damages cap provision of the NJCIA, a discussion of what CAMcare is and how it provides services is necessary. CAMcare was originally part of the residency program at CUH. (Gov't Statement of Material Facts ("Gov't SMF") [Dkt. No. 115–2] ¶ 2; Pl. Statement of Material Facts ("Pl. SMF") [Dkt. No. 116] ¶ 2.) CAMcare provides a variety of medical services, and bills through its billing department. (Gov't SMF ¶¶ 4, 6; Pl. SMF ¶¶ 4, 6.) CAMcare was classified as a public charity under I.R.C. §§ 509(a)(1) and 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) in July 1978 and made tax exempt pursuant to I.R.C. § 501(c)(3). (Kellmayer Decl. [Dkt. No. 81–8] ¶ 4; CAMcare 501(c)(3) Letter [Dkt. No. 81–9].) Subsequently, in 1996, CAMcare became an FQHC, and has been an FQHC continuously since then. (Bryant Decl. [Dkt. No. 81–3] ¶ 5; FQHC Deeming Letters [Dkt. No. 81–5].)

In 2009, the year of Young's hospitalization, CAMcare served 32,480 patients. (Gov't SMF ¶ 7; Pl. SMF ¶ 7.) That same year, CAMcare made a profit of $548,159. (Pl.'s Opp. [Dkt. No. 117] at 5;1 Gov't Counterstatement of Material Facts ("Gov't CSMF") [Dkt. No. 118–1] at 3.) CAMcare's employees received bonuses in 2009, and bonuses were paid to employees where there was sufficient surplus income to do so. (Pl.'s Opp. at 5; Gov't CSMF at 3.) Profits were also reinvested into CAMcare's business operations and expansion. (Pl.'s Opp. at 5; Gov't CSMF at 3.)

II. JURISDICTION

Young brings state law tort claims against the United States government, seeking to invoke jurisdiction pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346, 2671 –2680, and state law claims against the Cooper Defendants. It is undisputed that the two doctors employed by CAMcare, by nature of working at CAMcare, an FQHC, are "deemed to be ... employee[s] of the Public Health Service" and as such "[t]he remedy against the United States ... shall be exclusive." 42 U.S.C. § 233(g)(1)(A) ; see also 42 U.S.C. § 233(a).

Accordingly, this Court has jurisdiction over the FTCA claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b), and exercises supplemental jurisdiction over the related state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) ; see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 330, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). A genuine dispute of material fact exists only if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). When the Court weights the evidence presented by the parties, "[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Id. at 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

The moving party bears the burden of establishing that no genuine issue of material fact remains. See Celotex , 477 U.S. at 322–23, 106 S.Ct. 2548. A fact is material only if it will affect the outcome of a lawsuit under the applicable law, and a dispute of a material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable fact finder could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Anderson , 477 U.S. at 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505. Even if the facts are undisputed, a disagreement over what inferences may be drawn from the facts precludes a grant of summary judgment. Ideal Dairy Farms, Inc. v. John Labatt, Ltd. , 90 F.3d 737, 744 (3d Cir.1996). Further, "any unexplained gaps in materials submitted by the moving party, if pertinent to material issues of fact, justify denial of a motion for summary judgment." Id. (quoting Ingersoll Rand Fin. Corp. v. Anderson , 921 F.2d 497, 502 (3d Cir.1990) ) (internal quotations and alterations omitted).

The nonmoving party must present "more than a scintilla of evidence showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Woloszyn v. Cnty. of Lawrence , 396 F.3d 314, 319 (3d Cir.2005). The court's role in deciding the merits of a summary judgment motion is to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial, not to determine the credibility of the evidence or the truth of the matter. Anderson , 477 U.S. at 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

IV. DISCUSSION

Under the NJCIA, the $250,000 damages cap applies where the entity is (1) a nonprofit corporation, society, or association; and (2) organized exclusively for hospital purposes. N.J.S.A. 2A:53A–8. Additionally, in order for the NJCIA damages cap to be applied in a particular case, (3) the organization must have been "promoting those objectives and purposes at the time the plaintiff was injured" and (4) the "plaintiff [must have been] a beneficiary of the activities of the hospital." Kuchera v. Jersey Shore Family Health Ctr. , 221 N.J. 239, 249, 111 A.3d 84 (2015) (citing Hardwicke v. Am Boychoir Sch. , 188 N.J. 69, 95, 902 A.2d 900 (2006) ).

The Government has briefed all four elements, (see Gov't Mot. Br. at 20–31), but it is readily apparent from the responsive briefing that the extent of the dispute before the Court is whether CAMcare is a nonprofit corporation, society, or association within the meaning of the statute. Plaintiff has not responded to or challenged the argument made by the Government regarding the last two elements, and the Court has already determined that CAMcare is organized exclusively for hospital purposes. See Immunity Op. , 152 F.Supp.3d at 350, 2015 WL 9592442, at *10 (finding that CAMcare "can be nothing other than an organization that is ‘exclusively for hospital purposes' "). Thus, the only issue is whether CAMcare is a "non-profit corporation, society or association." N.J.S.A. 2A:53A–8.

For the reasons that follow, the Court determines that CAMcare is a nonprofit corporation within the meaning of the NJCIA, and accordingly finds that the Government is entitled to limit its potential damages to $250,000.

A. Standard for Determining Nonprofit Status

In the context of the NJCIA, it does not appear that the New Jersey courts have directly addressed the issue of what makes an organization a nonprofit. As pointed out by the Government, "courts have generally accepted a declaration from an employee of the non-profit entity with knowledge of that status, as well as documentation supporting that contention." (...

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