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Juarez-Atilano v. United States

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

August 14, 2018

MARIA JUAREZ-ATILANO Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          PETER G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.

         This matter is before the Court on the motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 18) by Defendant, the United States of America, or in the alternative, a motion for partial summary judgment (ECF No. 18).

         I.

         Procedural History

         Plaintiff, Maria Juarez-Atilano, is a resident of Wisconsin. Defendant, the United States of America is a party to this case as Dr. John Batich, M.D. of Ocean Health Initiatives, Inc., ("OHI") a Federally-Qualified Health Center provided care and treatment to Ms. Juarez-Atilano. On or about June 11, 2012, Plaintiff, came under the care and treatment of Ocean Health Initiatives, Inc., ("OHI") a Federally-Qualified Health Center. (Def. Answer at ¶2). According to Plaintiff, she had previously given birth via cesarean section at Kimball Medical Center on approximately June 1, 2008 with her care and treatment being provided by OHI through its medical professionals. (Complaint, ECF No. 1, at ¶5).

         On February 3, 2013, Plaintiff went into labor and was admitted to Kimball Medical Center located in Lakewood, New Jersey, under the care and treatment of OHI's medical professional, Dr. John Batich, M.D. (Id. at ¶ 6-7). After having previously given birth at Kimball Medical Center via cesarean section on June 1, 2008, Dr. Batich, at the request and with the consent of Ms. Juarez Atilano, allowed her to undergo labor after cesarean delivery. (Id. at ¶5, 8). According to the Complaint, complications occurred, including feta bradycardia and a possible uterine rupture, and Dr. Batich, with the help of his assistant Dr. Flavius M. Thompson, M.D., performed an emergency cesarean section. (Id. at ¶ 9). The baby, Brandon Oswaldo Silva, was delivered and showed no signs of life, and after twenty-two minutes of resuscitation, was pronounced dead. (Id.).

         On January 21, 2015, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Dr. Batich in New Jersey Superior Court, Ocean Vicinage, but the United States Attorney's office filed a Notice of Removal to federal court, with the United States of America named as a defendant rather than Dr. Batich on September 17, 2015. (Id. at ¶ 10-12). A week later, the United States filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, which this Court Granted on November 20, 2015, and remanded this action to Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Ocean County under docket number OCN-L-15-00218. (Id. at¶ 13).

         According to the present complaint, Plaintiff filed a Federal Torts Claim Notice three days later, and in response, the Department of Health and Human Services sent a letter dated January 4, 2016 requesting certain information. (Id. at ¶ 13-14). According to Plaintiff, the Department of Health and Human Services denied Plaintiffs claim on July 19, 2016. (It is unknown what happened to the case remanded back to the Superior Court in Ocean County.) (Id. at ¶15).

         Plaintiff filed the instant complaint on December 23, 2016.

         Facts

         At all times relevant to this lawsuit, Dr. Batich was an employee of Ocean Health Initiatives, Inc ("OHI"). (Def. SOF ¶5). OHI is a private, non-profit, charitable, ambulatory care facility, licensed by the State of New Jersey, that provides a broad range of health services- regardless of a patient's insurance status or ability to pay-to a largely medically under-served population in Ocean County, New Jersey. (Id. at ¶6). However, Plaintiff denies that OHI qualifies as a true nonprofit charity for the purposes of NJCIA. (Pl. Response to Def. SOF at ¶ 6).

         OHI is, as in 2012 and 2013 a federally qualified health center (hereinafter "FQHC"), and eligible for malpractice coverage under the Federal Tort Claims Act (hereinafter "FTCA"). OHI attained FQHC status in 2006 and the FTCA has applied since. (Def. SOF at ¶ 7) In 2012 and 2013, OHI operated out of two facilities: (1) 101 Second Street, Lakewood, NJ, and (2) 301 Lakehurst Road, Toms River, New Jersey. (Id. at ¶ 8). These facilities offered an array of medical services in 2012, including dental care, family medicine, behavioral health services, internal medicine, ob/gyn services, pediatrics, podiatry, and social services. (Id.). OHI also operates out of a Mobile Medical Unit to provide services within its area and has added five New Jersey locations since this alleged incident. (Id. at ¶ 9-12).

         OHI's certificate of incorporation describes OHI's non-profit status and purposes as follows:

SECOND: The purposes for which the Corporation are formed are charitable, educational and scientific in nature within the meaning of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or corresponding provisions of any future Internal Revenue Law (the "Code") and include, without limitation: To establish and operate indefinitely a health center or centers, and to render primary and ancillary health care and treatment services to individuals who are in need of such services.
To solicit and receive grants, contracts and funds from federal, state and local government agencies, foundations or any other sources, to further the corporate purposes.
To borrow money, contract, debts, issue notes and secure payment of the performances of its obligations and to do all other acts necessary or expedient for the administration of the affairs and attainment of the purposes of the Corporation. To engage in any other activity undertaken to promote the purposes of the Corporation, which may be lawfully undertaken by the Corporation under the New Jersey Non Profit Corporation Act. Nothing herein shall authorize the Corporation to carry on any activities not permitted to be carried on by a corporation exempt from federal income tax under Section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (or corresponding provision of any future United States Internal Revenue Law) or by a corporation contributions to which are deductible under Section 170(c)(2) of the Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (or corresponding provision of any future United States internal revenue law).

(Id. at ¶ 13.).

         OHI's certificate of incorporation states:

NINTH: The Corporation is not formed for pecuniary profit or for financial gain and no part of its assets, income, net earnings or profit shall be distributed to or inure to the benefit of any private individual. Reasonable compensation, however, may be paid for services rendered to or for the Corporation in furtherance of one or more of its purposes. No. trustee, officer or employee of the Corporation or any private individual shall be entitled to share in the distribution of any of the corporate assets on dissolution of the Corporation.

(Id. at ¶14.).

         OHI's bylaws in effect during 2012 and 2013, and presently in effect, use similar language as OHI's certificate of incorporation by stating OHI's non-profit status and purposes, as the bylaws in effect during 2010 and the bylaws in effect today state the following:

The purposes for which the Corporation are formed are charitable, educational and scientific in nature within the meaning of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or corresponding provisions of any future Internal Revenue Law (the "Code") and to carry out the purposes set forth in the Certificate of Incorporation, as amended, and include, without limitation:
a. To establish and operate indefinitely a health center or centers, and to render primary and ancillary health care and treatment services to individuals who are in need of such services;
b. To solicit and receive grants, contracts and funds from federal, state and local government agencies, foundations or any other sources, to further the corporate purposes;
c. To borrow money, contract, debts, issue notes and secure payment of the performances of its obligations and to do all other acts necessary or expedient for the administration of the affairs and attainment of the purposes of the Corporation; and
d. To engage in any other activity undertaken to promote the purposes of the Corporation, which may be lawfully undertaken by the Corporation under the New ...

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