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Miles v. United States

United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage

December 21, 2017

ANESHA MILES, Plaintiff,



         This matter comes before the Court upon the filing of a motion pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) by defendants Dr. Cindy Aves, M.D. (“Dr. Aves”) and Cooper University Hospital (“Cooper”)(collectively, the “Cooper Defendants”) seeking dismissal of all claims against them as time-barred. [Dkt. No. 35]. Because proper consideration of the Cooper Defendants' motion requires reference to facts outside of the pleadings, the Court will convert the motion into a motion for summary judgment and provide the parties with additional time to submit further materials in support and opposition of such motion.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Anesha Miles (“Plaintiff”) filed the initial complaint in this matter on February 12, 2016, naming the United States as the sole defendant. [Dkt. No. 1]. Plaintiff alleged that Dr. Eric Chang, D.O. -- a surgeon employed by the United States through CamCare Health Corporation -- performed a dilation and curettage with ablation (“D&C”) surgical procedure on Plaintiff at Cooper on March 17, 2014, which resulted in the termination of Plaintiff's pregnancy. [Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 7-13]. According to Plaintiff, she was subjected to a pre-surgical pregnancy test which revealed that she was pregnant. [Id. at ¶ 10]. The results of this test, however, were not conveyed to Plaintiff, and Plaintiff consented to the D&C without knowing that she was pregnant. (Id.) Plaintiff filed a one-count complaint alleging negligence against the United States.

         On March 8, 2017 the Court granted Plaintiff leave to amend the complaint to add the Cooper Defendants. [Dkt. No. 19]. On March 21, 2017 Plaintiff filed the amended complaint. [Dkt. No. 20]. In addition to the allegations of the initial complaint, Plaintiff alleged in the amended complaint that Dr. Aves, a Cooper employee not employed by the United States through CamCare Health Corporation, either assisted Dr. Chang in performing the D&C or performed it herself. [Dkt. No. 20 at ¶ 13, 16]. Plaintiff added a negligence count against Dr. Aves and negligence and “corporate negligence” counts against Cooper.

         On May 2, 2017, the Cooper Defendants filed the currently pending motion, seeking to dismiss all claims against them on statute of limitations grounds. [Dkt. No. 35].

         II. Legal Standard

         To withstand a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). In reviewing a plaintiff's allegations, a district court “must accept as true all well-pled factual allegations as well as all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, and construe those allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352 n.1 (3d Cir. 2012). A motion to dismiss for failure to comply with a statute of limitations will only be granted “where the complaint facially shows noncompliance with the limitations period.” Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1385 (3d Cir. 1994).

         When undertaking this review, courts are limited to the allegations found in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and undisputedly authentic documents that form the basis of a claim. See In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997); Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). “If, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) . . . matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56 . . . [and] [a]ll parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d).

         III. Analysis

         The Cooper Defendants argue that all claims asserted against them are time-barred. Each of Plaintiff's claims sounds in medical malpractice. N.J.S.A. § 2A:14-2 requires a plaintiff to file a medical malpractice action within two years after the cause of action “accrued.” Plaintiff underwent the D&C on March 17, 2014. (Dkt. No. 20 at ¶ 11). The parties do not dispute that this is the date on which Plaintiff's cause of action accrued. As such, Plaintiff had two years from March 17, 2014 to file her complaint.

         As noted above, Plaintiff timely filed her initial complaint against the United States on February 12, 2016. Further, Plaintiff concedes in her opposition to the present motion that the two-year statute of limitations had run before March 8, 2017, when she filed the amended complaint adding claims against the Cooper Defendants. [Dkt. No. 37 at 3]. Plaintiff argues, however, that the claims against the Cooper Defendants are not subject to dismissal because the amended complaint “relates back” to the date of the filing of the initial complaint.

         Whether an amendment relates back to the original complaint is a question of federal procedural law, not state law, and thus Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c) controls. See Loudenslager v. Teeple, 466 F.2d 249, 250 (3d Cir. 1972). Specifically, ...

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