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Jones v. Ford

December 12, 2006

TERENCE JONES, M.D., PH.D. PLAINTIFF
v.
MARK FORD; ANDERSON DAILEY, LLP.; TENET HEALTHSYSTEM MEDICAL, INC.; WENDELL VAN ES DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wm. R. Wilson, Jr. United States District Judge

ORDER

Pending are Motions to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction filed by Defendant Mark Ford and Anderson Dailey, LLP*fn1 ; and by Defendants Tenet HealthSystem Medical, Inc. and Wendell Van Es.*fn2 Plaintiff Terence Jones responded to both Motions.*fn3 Also pending is a Motion to Dismiss or Strike filed by Tenet HealthSystem Medical, Inc. and Wendell Van Es*fn4 and a Motion to Dismiss the Amended and Substituted Complaint,*fn5 to which Plaintiff responded.*fn6 Finally, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended and Substituted Complaint,*fn7 to which Defendants Tenet HealthSystem Medical, Inc. and Wendell Van Es responded.*fn8

I. Background

This is a tort case alleging that Defendants, Wendell Van Es ("Van Es") and Tenet HealthSystem Medical, Inc.("Tenet"), filed a fraudulent lawsuit against Plaintiff Dr. Terence Jones ("Jones"). Defendant Mark Ford ("Ford") is a lawyer and a partner with Defendant Anderson Dailey, LLP ("Anderson"), who represented Tenet and Van Es in the allegedly fraudulent lawsuit. Jones also sued six John Doe Defendants.

Jones is a citizen of Alabama; Tenet is a Delaware Corporation that is registered to do business in Arkansas; Van Es is a citizen of Arkansas; Ford practices law in Georgia, and Anderson is a Georgia law firm. The subject of the allegedly fraudulent lawsuit was a Relocation Agreement ("Agreement") between Jones and St. Mary's Regional Medical Center ("Hospital") and the St. Mary's Medical Group ("Clinic"). The Hospital and the Clinic are located in Russellville, Arkansas. Tenet owns the Hospital and Van Es is the Hospital's Chief Financial Officer.

The Agreement was part of a recruitment effort to entice Jones to practice general surgery in Russellville, Arkansas by guaranteeing Jones an income in exchange for his promise to remain in the area for three years. Jones executed a separate Employment Contract with the Clinic.

The Agreement also made the Clinic jointly and severally liable with the Hospital if Jones left early and money was owed. Jones alleges that he was never paid the guaranteed income by the Hospital because the money was paid to the Clinic.

Jones began working for the Hospital in 2001 but he left in 2002 -- before the expiration of the Agreement. Van Es demanded that Jones reimburse the Hospital the sum of $29, 500.00. According to Jones's Complaint, the Hospital made no money demand to the Clinic.

The subject lawsuit was filed against Jones in Georgia. Jones alleges that the lawsuit was fraudulent because it was filed by a non-existent entity -- St. Mary's Regional Medical Center --for the purpose of concealing the actual Plaintiff -- Tenet. Ford prosecuted the suit in Georgia, under the laws of Georgia. Jones alleges that Ford filed a Complaint and Amended Complaint that contained allegations that he knew were false. After a year of discovery and before the deposition of Van Es, Ford dismissed the lawsuit. Jones alleges that the Georgia lawsuit was designed to cause him to pay sums that he did not owe, and to conceal a scheme to defraud the federal government.

Jones maintains that Arkansas is the proper venue for his malicious prosecution, fraud, and outrage case because all the underlying events took place in Arkansas, and all the witnesses are from Arkansas.

Ford and Anderson maintain that there is no personal jurisdiction because there are no significant contacts with Arkansas. Ford is a resident of Georgia and Anderson is a limited liability partnership, organized under the laws of Georgia. Neither Ford nor the lawyers in the Anderson Firm are licensed to practice law in Arkansas. Ford and Anderson also maintain that venue does not lie in Arkansas because the allegedly fraudulent lawsuit was filed in Georgia. Tenet and Van Es also argue that Arkansas is not the correct venue for this case.

II. Authority

A. Personal Jurisdiction

When personal jurisdiction is challenged, the plaintiff has the burden to show jurisdiction exists.*fn9 In a diversity action, a federal court may assume jurisdiction over nonresident defendants only to the extent permitted by the long-arm statute of the forum state, and by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.*fn10 In 1995, the Arkansas General Assembly amended the long-arm statute to give it the limits imposed by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Arkansas's long-arm statute reads: "The courts of this state shall have personal jurisdiction of all persons, and all causes of action or claims for relief, to the maximum extent permitted by the due process of law clause of the ...


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