United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
LEE ANDRE MILLER, Special Administrator of the Estate of Annie Bell Miller PLAINTIFF
BROADWAY HEALTH AND REHAB LLC; BROADWAY HEALTH HOLDINGS LLC; ARKANSAS SNF OPERATIONS ACQUISITION III LLC; ARKANSAS NURSING HOME ACQUISITION LLC; CSCV HOLDINGS II LLC; CAPITAL FUNDING GROUP, INC.; ADDIT LLC; SLC PROFESSIONALS LLC; and COMPASS POINTE HEALTHCARE SYSTEM LLC DEFENDANTS
Marshall Jr., United States District Judge
Annie Bell Miller's estate has sued Broadway Health and
Rehab, a nursing home, as well as many related business
entities, for injuries allegedly suffered while she was at
the facility. The estate claims that those injuries caused
her death. It alleges medical malpractice, violations of the
Long-Term Care Facility Residents' Rights Act,
negligence, and wrongful death. It also requests punitive
damages. Broadway and its non-facility owners deny liability.
They've moved for partial judgment on the pleadings and
for partial summary judgment on several issues. The press of
other matters requires the Court to rule by summary order.
Court adopts the reasoning and most of the holding in
Tuohey v. Chenal Healthcare LLC, 2017 WL 2177981, at
*2 (E.D. Ark. 17 May 2017). The Residents' Rights Act
makes all treatment-related and care-related claims for
medical injury matters of medical malpractice. ARK. CODE Ann.
§ 20-10-1209(a)(1). That's the estate's core
claim. The Rights Act leaves room for garden-variety
negligence claims that don't involve medical care. So
does the Malpractice Act. Tuohey, 2017 WL 2177981,
at *2. Defendants' "completely subsumes"
argument therefore goes too far. A violation of the Rights
Act unrelated to medical injury would be evidence of ordinary
negligence. ARK. Code Ann. § 20-10-1209(d)(2);
Tuohey, 2017 WL 2177981, at *2. The estate's
pleaded and argued negligence claim, though, is solely about
staffing and funding this nursing home - core issues about
the medical care that Broadway Health and Rehab provided to
Mrs. Miller. No. 2 at 7-8; No. 33 at 1. It's
thus a matter of medical malpractice. This case is unlike
Tuohey in this respect. Next, the estate's claim
for wrongful death goes forward. It, too, is channeled
through malpractice; but there's no dispute that the
statutory damages are available if the estate's proof
satisfies the statutory criteria. ARK. Code Ann. §
estate's claim for punitive damages fails as a matter of
law. Defendants' motion is a call -there's no clear
and convincing evidence, they say, of malice or from which
malice may be inferred. In re Aircraft Accident at Little
Rock, Arkansas on June 1, 1999, 351 F.3d 874, 876-77
(8th Cir. 2003); Bedford v. Doe, 2018 WL 547455, at
*3 (8th Cir. 2018). The estate hasn't offered any
depositions, affidavits, or sworn discovery responses that
would create a factual dispute on punitive damages. FED. R.
CIV. P. 56(c). "[M]ere denials or allegations, " as
the estate presents in its response, are insufficient without
specific facts. Bedford, 2018 WL 547455, at *2.
non-facility defendants are entitled to summary judgment.
First, the estate hasn't shown that any of these entities
had a duty to Miller. This is a question of law for the
Court. Marlar v. Daniel, 368 Ark. 505, 508, 247
S.W.3d 473, 476 (2007). There's simply an insufficient
evidentiary record of direct involvement in Mrs. Miller's
care to hold the non-facility defendants responsible. Second,
the estate hasn't offered proof of illegality or sham
that would support piercing their corporate veils on an
alter-ego theory. K.C. Properties of N.W. Arkansas, Inc.
v. Lowell Investment Partners LLC, 373 Ark. 14, 32-33,
280 S.W.3d 1, 15-16 (2008). Third, joint venture. The
entities' common purpose in running the Broadway Health
and Rehab nursing home is manifest. Yant v. Woods,
353 Ark. 786, 789-90, 120 S.W.3d 574, 576-77 (2003). The
parties focus on the second essential element-an equal right
of control. Here, the estate argues facts that it believes
create genuine issues for the jury about the non-facility
entities' sway in running the nursing home. But the
estate has given the Court no evidence of these facts. Again,
no depositions, affidavits, sworn declarations, or other
admissible evidentiary materials are in the record.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). When a defendant moves and says that the
plaintiff has no evidence on an essential element (here the
equal right to direct and govern the licensee in caring for
Mrs. Miller), a plaintiff must respond with evidence that
would support a verdict from a reasonable juror.
Bedford, 2018 WL 547455, at *2. The argued facts, if
true, reveal a "web of corporate entities" jointly
pursuing profits, as in Tuohey, 2017 WL 2177981, at
*1. That common purpose, though, doesn't show an equal
right to control. Therefore, even taking the facts behind the
estate's arguments as true, they are insufficient to go
to the jury on a joint venture theory.
for judgment on the pleadings, No. 18, partly denied
and partly granted with caveats. Motion for partial summary
judgment, No. 22, granted on punitive damages and,
on the claims issues, partly denied and partly granted with
caveats. Motion for partial summary judgment by the