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Collins v. New Orleans Home for Incurables

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 9, 2015

TRAVIS COLLINS
v.
NEW ORLEANS HOME FOR INCURABLES, Section: J(1)

ORDER AND REASONS

CARL J. BARBIER, District Judge.

Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (Rec. Doc. 8) filed by Defendant, New Orleans Home for Incurables, doing business as the John J. Hainkel, Jr. Home & Rehabilitation Center ("Defendant") and an Opposition thereto (Rec. Doc. 9) by Plaintiff, Travis Collins ("Plaintiff"). This motion is set for Oral Argument before the Court on July 15, 2015. Having considered the motion, the parties' submissions, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds, for the reasons expressed below, that the motion should be DENIED.

PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

This matter arises out of claims brought by Plaintiff regarding the use of an electric power wheelchair. Plaintiff is a paraplegic as a result of a gunshot wound which he incurred at the age of fifteen. Since approximately 1996, Plaintiff has resided at a nursing home ("the Hainkel Home"), which is owned and operated by Defendant. Plaintiff alleges that during the majority of his residency at the Hainkel Home, he transported himself via a power wheelchair, which allowed him to travel within and outside of the Hainkel Home. As a paraplegic, Plaintiff is unable to travel via a manual wheelchair. Plaintiff further alleges that in 2013, his power wheelchair stopped working and became inoperable. At this time, Plaintiff's friends, Madeleine Burns and Carro Gardner, contacted Defendant regarding their desire to purchase Plaintiff a new power wheelchair worth $7, 000 as a gift. Defendant advised Ms. Burns and Ms. Gardner to make the payments directly to Defendant, who would then deposit the money in Plaintiff's resident trust fund account. The women made the payments, and on April 7, 2014, Defendant disbursed the money from Plaintiff's account and purchased a new power wheelchair.

From April 2014 until July 2014, Plaintiff alleges that he used the power wheelchair purchased for him by Ms. Burns and Ms. Gardner. Plaintiff further alleges that in July 2014, without his consent, Defendant transferred the power wheelchair from his room at the Hainkel Home to another location, where it was not accessible to Plaintiff. Plaintiff contends that Defendant claimed the wheelchair was in need of repairs and refused to permit Plaintiff to use the wheelchair. Due to Plaintiff's inability to use the wheelchair, he alleges that he is unable to leave the Hainkel Home and participate in the community.

Plaintiff filed the present lawsuit in this Court on May 4, 2015. In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that by depriving him of the use of his power wheelchair, Defendant has violated the Fair Housing Act, Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("the ADA") and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Plaintiff also states causes of action for conversion and breach of contract under Louisiana law. As a result of these alleged violations, Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

In response to Plaintiff's Complaint, Defendant filed the instant motion seeking dismissal of Plaintiff's claims pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Defendant argues that because Plaintiff's claims arise from Defendant's provision of medical care, they are essentially medical malpractice claims encompassed by the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act ("the LMMA"). Defendant further asserts that because Plaintiff has not submitted his claims to a medical review panel prior to filing the present lawsuit as required by the LMMA, the Court should determine that Plaintiff's claims are premature and should be dismissed.

LEGAL STANDARD

In deciding a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), "the district court is free to weigh the evidence and resolve factual disputes in order to satisfy itself that it has the power to hear the case.'" Krim v. pcOrder.com, Inc., 402 F.3d 489, 494 (5th Cir. 2005). The party asserting jurisdiction must carry the burden of proof for a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss. Randall D. Wolcott, M.D., P.A. v. Sebelius, 635 F.3d 757, 762 (5th Cir. 2011). The standard of review for a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) is the same as that for a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). United States v. City of New Orleans, No. 02-3618, 2003 WL 22208578, at *1 (E.D. La. Sept. 19, 2003).

Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The complaint must "give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Dura Pharm., Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 346 (2005). The allegations "must be simple, concise, and direct." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1).

"Under Rule 12(b)(6), a claim may be dismissed when a plaintiff fails to allege any set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Taylor v. Books A Million, Inc., 296 F.3d 376, 378 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing McConathy v. Dr. Pepper/Seven Up Corp., 131 F.3d 558, 561 (5th Cir. 1998)). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must plead enough facts to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff pleads facts that allow the court to "draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. A court must accept all well-pleaded facts as true and must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Lormand v. U.S. Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 232-33 (5th Cir. 2009); Baker v. Putnal, 75 F.3d 190, 196 (5th Cir. 1996). The court is not, however, bound to accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

DISCUSSION

Defendant asserts that despite the multiple types of claims included in Plaintiff's Complaint, all of the claims are essentially for medical malpractice and are encompassed by the LMMA. The LMMA mandates as follows:

No action against a health care provider covered by this Part, or his insurer, may be commenced in any court before the claimant's proposed complaint has been presented to a medical ...

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