United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
OPINION AND ORDER
HOLMES, III CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court are Defendant Michael R. Raber, M.D.'s motion
for partial summary judgment (Doc. 22), brief in support of
his motion (Doc. 23), and a statement of facts in support of
his motion (Doc. 24). Plaintiff Washington Regional Medical
Center (“WRMC”) filed a response in opposition
(Doc. 25), a brief in support (Doc. 26), and a statement of
facts in support of its response (Doc. 27). Dr. Raber filed a
reply (Doc. 28) to the response in opposition. For the
reasons stated herein, the Court will GRANT Dr. Raber's
motion for partial summary judgment (Doc. 22) on WRMC's
unjust enrichment claim and DENY partial summary judgment on
WRMC's consequential damages claim.
began recruiting Dr. Michael R. Raber for a neurosurgeon
position at its hospital in April of 2016. (Doc. 22-1, ¶
3). WRMC arranged for Dr. Raber to visit the hospital in
Fayetteville, Arkansas, three times between April 2016 and
November 2016. (Doc. 26, p. 2). WRMC offered to pay for each
trip to introduce Dr. Raber to WRMC Neurosurgical Department
staff and the Northwest Arkansas region. (Doc. 22-1,
¶¶ 3-5). All three trips occurred before Dr. Raber
signed an employment agreement with WRMC. (Doc. 22-1, ¶
6). WRMC alleges that Dr. Raber's recruitment expenses
were $8, 885.00. (Doc. 26, p. 2). These costs included Dr.
Raber's airfare, lodging, and meal costs during the
trips. (Doc. 28-1). Dr. Raber contends that he never agreed
to reimburse WRMC for the expenses of the recruitment trips
if he failed to report to work at WRMC. (Doc. 22-1, ¶
6). During Dr. Raber's visits to Fayetteville and the
remainder of the recruitment process, Dr. Raber claims that
no one from WRMC told him it was necessary for WRMC to
provide 24-hour, 7-days-a-week neurosurgical coverage. (Doc
22-1, ¶ 9). WRMC on the other hand, contends that J.
Larry Shackelford, Vice-President of Outreach, informed Dr.
Raber of this requirement during one of his visits. (Doc. 26,
p. 3). Dr. Raber also met with neurosurgeons on staff at WRMC
and none of them informed him that they were leaving their
current position. (Doc. 22-1, ¶ 8).
completing the three visits, WRMC and Dr. Raber entered into
a 21-page “Employment Agreement” (“the
agreement”) on December 7, 2016. (Doc. 27, ¶ 2).
The agreement spanned a three-year term beginning on July 1,
2017. (Doc. 22-2, p. 1). The agreement required Dr. Raber to
provide a minimum of 90 days of annual neurosurgical on-call
coverage for the Emergency Department and provided for Dr.
Raber to be paid at a rate of $1, 500 per 24-hour period of
Emergency Department coverage he provided in addition to the
required 90-day on-call requirement. (Doc. 22-2, pp. 7-8).
“Compensation” section of the agreement, Dr.
Raber was awarded a signing bonus conditioned on
“relocat[ing] his residence to the Community on or
before July 1, 2017 and commenc[ing] Full-Time employment
with [the] Hospital . . . .” (Doc. 22-2, p. 9). WRMC
paid Dr. Raber the $48, 000 signing bonus, and paid
additional payroll taxes in the amount of $3, 672. (Doc. 26,
pp. 4-5). To protect itself from losing the $48, 000 signing
bonus in the event of Dr. Raber's breach of the
agreement, WRMC required Dr. Raber to sign a promissory note
and inserted § 2(H)(x) of the agreement, titled
“Repayment Obligations” detailing the repayment
obligations of the signing bonus, if Dr. Raber failed to
comply with the signing bonus conditions. (Doc. 22- 2, p. 9).
March 15, 2017, Dr. Raber notified WRMC that he was
withdrawing from his commitment to work for WRMC due to
personal issues. (Doc. 25-1, p. 2). As a result, WRMC filed
this action against Dr. Raber alleging breach of contract and
unjust enrichment. (Doc. 1). WRMC was awarded partial summary
judgment (Doc. 21) on its breach of contract claim for the
$48, 000 signing bonus plus interest as detailed in §
2(H)(x) of the agreement. Thus, WRMC's claims for
consequential damages for locum tenens coverage and
its unjust enrichment claim for recruitment expenses and
payroll taxes remain pending and are the subject of Dr.
Legal Standard for Summary Judgment
party moves for summary judgment, the party must establish
both the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact and
that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; Matsushita Elec. Indus.
Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986);
Nat'l Bank of Commerce of El Dorado, Ark. v. Dow
Chem. Co., 165 F.3d 602, 606 (8thCir. 1999). In order
for there to be a genuine issue of material fact, the
nonmoving party must produce evidence “such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Allison v. Flexway Trucking, Inc., 28
F.3d 64, 66-67 (8th Cir. 1994) (citing Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). Only
facts “that might affect the outcome of the suit under
the governing law” need be considered.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. “[T]he non-movant
must make a sufficient showing on every essential element of
its claim on which it bears the burden of proof.”
P.H. v. Sch. Dist. of Kan. City, Mo., 265 F.3d 653,
658 (8th Cir. 2001). Facts asserted by the nonmoving party
“must be properly supported by the record, ” in
which case those “facts and the inferences to be drawn
from them [are viewed] in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party.” Id. at 656-57.
this is a diversity case, the Court applies Arkansas
substantive law. Murray v. Greenwich Ins. Co., 533
F.3d 644, 648 (8th Cir. 2008) (citing Erie R.R. v.
Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)). Under that law, Dr.
Raber is entitled to summary judgment on WRMC's unjust
enrichment claim. However, summary judgment is inappropriate
on WRMC's claim for consequential damages.
initial matter, Dr. Raber is entitled to judgment on
WRMC's unjust enrichment claim. A claim for unjust
enrichment relies on the principle that “one person
should not unjustly enrich himself at the expense of
another.” Dews v. Halliburton Indus., Inc.,
708 S.W.2d 67, 69 (1986) (citation omitted). For a claim of
unjust enrichment to succeed, the defendant “must have
received something of value, to which he was not entitled and
which he must restore. There must also be some operative act,
intent, or situation to make the enrichment unjust and
respect to WRMC's claim that its recruiting expenses
unjustly enriched Dr. Raber, judgment for Dr. Raber is
proper. Where one party gratuitously confers a benefit on
another, or does so voluntarily, knowing it has no obligation
to do so, enrichment by the receiving party is not unjust.
See Restatement (Second) of Restitution § 1,
Comment C (Am. Law Inst. 1937); cf. Childs v.
Adams, 909 S.W.2d 641, 647 (Ark. 1995) (“[O]ne who
officiously confers a benefit upon another is not entitled to
restitution therefor.” (citing Restatement (Second) of
Restitution § 2)). WRMC's claim that Dr. Raber was
unjustly enriched by the expenses WRMC ...