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Jett v. Coletta

September 22, 2003


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irenas, Senior District Judge


Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on the issue of choice of law as to damages in this medical malpractice action. Specifically, Defendants argue that Idaho law, rather than New Jersey law, should apply to this case. We disagree, and deny Defendants' Motion.


This dispute centers on medical treatment that Plaintiff, Christa A. Jett, ("Plaintiff") received from Defendants from June 22, 2000 to June 26, 2000, in Wildwood, New Jersey. Plaintiff argues that the severe neurological injuries she currently suffers were a result of Defendants' negligence.

Plaintiff is an Idaho resident and at the time of her May 24, 2002 deposition, had lived with her family in Green Leaf, Idaho for eleven years. All of the individual defendants in this matter reside and/or work in New Jersey. All of the corporate defendants in this matter have their principal places of business in New Jersey. All of the defendants are insured by Princeton Insurance Company, MIIX, or Health Care Insurance Company, all of which are located in New Jersey, and none of which are authorized to do business in Idaho.

On June 5, 2000, Plaintiff, then sixteen years old, flew to the New Jersey Shore to spend the summer with her grandmother, Cheronne Jett, a resident of Wildwood, New Jersey. Shortly after arriving in New Jersey, Plaintiff obtained a summer job at a concession stand in Wildwood.

This was Plaintiff's second summer spent in Wildwood with her grandmother. During the summer of 1998, Plaintiff also lived with her grandmother and worked as a waitress at the Rio Motel Coffee Shop in Wildwood. Plaintiff always expected to return to Idaho when school resumed. But for her injury, Plaintiff would have returned to Idaho in late August.

On June 22, 2000, Plaintiff sought treatment from Defendants for intense, persistent back pain and associated symptoms. Defendants treated Plaintiff for five days, at which point Plaintiff was helicoptered to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for an emergent MRI and treatment. Plaintiff suffered from Ewing's Sarcoma, and her MRI revealed a spinal tumor which required surgical decompression and resection.

Because of the tumor, Plaintiff currently suffers from spastic paraparesis in her lower body, an inability to ambulate independently, and other problems. Plaintiff contends that had Defendants properly diagnosed and treated her, these injuries could have been avoided. Plaintiff seeks compensation for Defendants' alleged negligence.

Defendants' current summary judgment motion requests that we apply Idaho law to Plaintiff's claims on the issue of damages. The relevant Idaho statute would limit Plaintiff's potential recovery of non-economic damages to $400,000. Idaho Code § 6-1603 (Michie, 1998). Plaintiffs contend that New Jersey malpractice law, which contains no cap on non-economic damages, should be applied. See N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:53A-1 (2003), and N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:15-5.1 (2003). We agree with the Plaintiff and deny Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.


A. Standard of Review

Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) a court may grant summary judgment "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." The non-moving party may not simply rest on its pleadings to oppose a summary judgment motion but must affirmatively come forward with admissible evidence establishing a genuine issue of fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court must construe the facts and inferences in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. Pollock v. American Tel. & Tel. Long Lines, 794 F.2d 860, 864 (3d Cir. 1986). The role of the court is not to "weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).

The substantive law governing the dispute will determine which facts are material, and only disputes over those facts "that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Id. at 248. Where the moving party has carried its initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, "its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). A genuine issue for trial does not exist "unless the party opposing the motion can adduce evidence which, when considered in light of that party's burden ...

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