United States District Court, D. New Jersey
GLADYS MENDOZA, personal representative of ELIAS MENDOZA, Plaintiff,
INSPIRA MEDICAL CENTER VINELAN; SOUTH JERSEY HEALTH CARE; INSPIRA HEALTH NETWORK, INC.; ANDREW ZINN, M.D.; THE HEART HOUSE; NAEEM M. AMIN, M.D.; and KIDNEY AND HYPERTENSION SPECIALISTS, P.A., Defendants.
R. RADMORE Attorney for Plaintiff Gladys Mendoza.
J. HEAVEY, GROSSMAN & HEAVEY Attorney for Defendants
Inspira Medical Center Vineland, South Jersey Health Care,
and Inspira Health Network, Inc.
P. BRIGHAM, STAHL & DELAURENTIS Attorney for Andrew Zinn,
M.D. and The Heart House.
L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
a medical malpractice action brought against a hospital and a
cardiologist arising out of their care of Elias Mendoza
(“Mendoza”) in March 2014. Currently before the
Court are six motions:
(1) Inspira Health Network's Motion for Summary Judgment
(ECF No. 83);
(2) Dr. Andrew Zinn, M.D. (“Dr. Zinn”) and The
Heart House's (collectively, the “Cardiology
Defendants”) Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 86);
(3) Plaintiff Gladys Mendoza's (“Plaintiff”)
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment as to IHN (ECF No. 87);
(4) Plaintiff's Motion in Limine to Preclude IHN From
Relying on the Testimony of Dr. Tobia John Mercuro (ECF No.
(5) Plaintiff's Motion in Limine to Preclude IHN from
Relying on Any Expert Testimony at Trial (ECF No. 105); and
(6) The Cardiology Defendants' Motion in Limine to Limit
the Trial Testimony of Dr. Bruce D. Charash, M.D. (ECF No.
reasons set forth in this Opinion, IHN's Motion for
Summary Judgment (ECF No. 83) will be granted; the Cardiology
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 86) will
be granted; Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 87) will be denied; and the parties'
Motions in Limine (ECF Nos. 104, 105, and 106) will be denied
Court takes its facts from the parties' statements of
undisputed material fact and this Court's prior decisions
in this matter. The Court will note factual disputes where
Relevant Factual Background
March 11, 2014, Mendoza went to the Emergency Room at IMC
Vineland complaining of shortness of breath. Shortly
thereafter, Mendoza was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.
At the time of his admission, Mendoza had long suffered from
end-stage renal disease, insulin dependent diabetes mellitus,
coronary artery disease, and congestive heart failure.
admission to IMC, Plaintiff was chiefly cared for by the
internal medicine group. (ECF No. 86-6, ¶¶4-7). A
chest x-ray taken at IMC appeared to show a fluid overload in
Mendoza's lungs. As a result, Mendoza's supervising
physicians ordered a cardiology consultation, which was
ultimately performed by Dr. Andrew Zinn, M.D. (“Dr.
Zinn”), and a nephrology consultation, which was
performed by Dr. Naeem M. Amin, M.D. (“Dr.
March 15, 2014, Mendoza suffered both a respiratory and
cardiac arrest which led to a permanent anoxic brain injury
caused by lack of oxygen. Plaintiff alleges that
Mendoza's medical episode was the result of medical
negligence. Specifically, Plaintiff's case appears to be
principally based on a note entered in the Mendoza's
discharge summary, which states in relevant part:
HOSPITAL COURSE: Over the course of the patient's
hospital stay, he tolerated BiPAP and required dialysis.
Unfortunately[, ] he was unable to tolerate full treatments
and continued to build up fluid. The patient unfortunately
had some difficulty receiving dialysis in our intensive care
unit due to staffing limitations, which continued to
exacerbate his continued difficulties with his fluid overload
Mendoza passed away less than a year later from acute
respiratory failure, stemming from a cardiac arrest and
coronary artery disease.
Relevant Procedural History
filed an initial complaint on March 9, 2016 (ECF No. 1), and
later filed an amended complaint on March 22, 2016 (ECF No.
5) (the “Amended Complaint”). The Amended
Complaint asserts claims against three sets of Defendants,
the Inspira Defendants and Cardiology Defendants mentioned
supra, as well as Dr. Amin and the Kidney and
Hypertension Specialists, P.A. (the “Nephrology
August 2016, the Nephrology Defendants and IMC moved for
summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff's failure to
comply with the Affidavit of Merit Statute, N.J. Stat. Ann.
§ 2A:53A-27 et seq., required dismissal. This
Court granted that motion on March 30, 2017 (the “March
30, 2017 Order”). (ECF No. 31).
timely filed a Motion for Reconsideration, or in the
alternative, a motion to certify the March 30, 2017 Order for
interlocutory appeal. (ECF No. 33). After full briefing,
Plaintiff's requests were denied by this Court on
November 13, 2017. (ECF No. 42).
October 10, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Partial Motion for
Summary Judgment solely against IHN (the “October 10
Motion”). (ECF No. 59). Plaintiff acknowledged that the
Court previously dismissed IMC, but argued that IHN is a
separate entity with distinct liability not previously
resolved by the Court's prior decisions.
November 1, 2018, the Inspira Defendants filed a Cross-Motion
to Amend the caption of this matter along with their
opposition to Plaintiff's October 10 Motion for Partial
Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 63).
January 11, 2019, Cardiology Defendants filed a Motion for
Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 71). Cardiology Defendants alleged
that Plaintiff had not established that Cardiology Defendants
deviated from the requisite standard of care.
Opinion and Order dated April 24, 2019 (ECF No. 76) (the
“April 21 Opinion and Order”), this Court granted
in part and denied in part the Motion to Preclude filed by
the Inspira Defendants (ECF No. 57); denied Plaintiff's
first Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, without prejudice
(ECF No. 59); denied the Inspira Defendants' Motion to
Amend (ECF No. 63); and denied the Cardiology Defendants'
Motion for Summary Judgment, without prejudice (ECF No. 71).
the Court invited the parties to submit supplemental briefing
on several issues. See (ECF No. 75 at 10). The Court
guided the parties on what it expected in any supplemental
filings. Particularly, the Court encouraged IHN to address
why - as a matter of law, and, if applicable, as a matter of
undisputed fact - direct or vicarious liability claims must
be dismissed against IHN to the same extent they were
dismissed against IMC. The Court also asked the parties to
clarify whether the Affidavit of Merit Statute applies to
light of the standard of care offered by Dr. Charash,
discussed in further detail infra, of the Cardiology
Defendants and Plaintiff, the Court requested clarification
on what role, if any, the Cardiology Defendants had in
directing care for Mendoza. The Court focused the parties on
the issue of whether the Cardiology Defendants had any
decision-making role regarding Mendoza's care.
issuance of the April 24, 2019 Opinion and Order, the parties
filed renewed motions for summary judgment, which are
presently before the Court.
The Present Motions
Plaintiff's claims against the Cardiology Defendants,
Plaintiff relies upon the expert reports of Bruce D.
Charash, M.D., F.A.C.C. (“Dr. Charash”). This
Court previously examined Dr. Charash's expert opinion.
The Court summarized Dr. Charash's standard of care as
“requir[ing] treating Mr. Mendoza as if he could be
impacted by an acute coronary event, which further placed him
at risk for acute decompensation.” Mendoza v.
Inspira Med. Ctr. Vineland, South Jersey Health Care,
No. 16-1337, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 69402, *15 (D.N.J. April
24, 2019) (Hillman, J.) (the “April 24 Opinion”).
The Court noted that in Dr. Charash's deposition, he
stated: “[f]rom a cardiac point of view this patient
was drowning and a cardiologist would have the responsibility
to protect the airway and to get the patient dialyzed.”
Court further analyzed Dr. Charash's deposition
testimony, which includes the following remarks:
Q: . . . You would agree with me, would you not, Doctor, that
in your two reports you do not criticize Dr. Zinn or any
member of CADV [(The Heart House)] directly?
A: Correct. Because I was not provided any discovery
deposition testimony I had no foundation to know who was