United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
TIMOTHY L. BROOKS JUDGE
the Court is a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant Baxter
Healthcare Corporation ("Baxter") (Doc. 6), with
accompanying Brief in Support (Doc. 7), and a Motion to
Dismiss filed by Defendant Stuart Hoffman ("Dr.
Hoffman") (Doc. 11), with a Brief in Support (Doc. 13).
Plaintiff Doreen Skroch filed a Response to both motions
(Doc. 16), and Baxter filed a Reply in Support of its Motion
to Dismiss (Doc. 23). For the reasons given below, the Court
hereby GRANTS Baxter's Motion to
Dismiss, GRANTS Dr. Hoffman's Motion,
and DISMISSES WITHOUT PREJUDICE Ms. Skrochs
claims against Baxter, Mr. Pinson, and Dr. Hoffman.
Skroch was an employee of Baxter Healthcare in Mountain Home,
Arkansas. On March 28, 2019, Ms. Skroch gave a urine sample
at her employer's request. Baxter transmitted that urine
sample to Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings
("LabCorp"), also a defendant in this case, to be
tested for the presence of controlled substances. The sample
attributed to Ms. Skroch tested positive for opiates, and
LabCorp transmitted the results to First Advantage
Occupational Health Services Corp. ("First
Advantage"), which provides Medical Review Officer
("MRO") services, reviewing laboratory results
before they are reported to employers. Defendant Dr. Hoffman
is the Chief MRO for First Advantage. When the results of the
drug test were transmitted to Baxter, Ms. Skroch was fired by
her supervisor, Chris Pinson, who is also named as a
defendant in Ms. Skroch's Complaint.
Skroch's Complaint (Doc. 4) raises allegations of
negligence, libel, interference in contractual relations, and
violations of the Arkansas Drug Free Workplace Act (the
"Act"), Ark. Code Ann. § 11-14-101 et
seq., against Defendants Baxter, Mr. Pinson, LabCorp,
and Dr. Hoffman. The Act requires that participant employers
have drug test results confirmed and reviewed by an MRO
before an employee may be terminated. Ark. Code Ann. §
11-14-107(b). Participation in this program is voluntary. See
Ark. Code Ann. §11-14-102(5).
Motion to Dismiss, Baxter argues that the Complaint fails to
state a claim under the Act. Additionally, Baxter asserts
that Ms. Skroch has not sufficiently pled the components of
defamation and that Baxter cannot tortiously interfere in its
own relationship with Ms. Skroch. Dr. Hoffman's Motion to
Dismiss asserts that he is not subject to personal
jurisdiction in this Court, that service of process was
defective, and her claims against him fail as a matter of
law. The Affidavit of Service filed by Ms. Skroch indicates
that Dr. Hoffman was served by restricted certified mail sent
to the First Advantage building in Bolingbrook, Illinois.
(Doc. 4-1, p. 7). Dr. Hoffman asserts, however, that he lives
and works in California and did not designate the person who
signed for the certified mail at the First Advantage building
in Illinois as an agent authorized to accept service on his
behalf. (Doc. 11-1). Additionally, Dr. Hoffman submitted an
affidavit stating that he does not transact or solicit
business or own property in Arkansas, nor did he perform the
MRO verification of Ms. Skroch's urine test.
Response, Ms. Skroch abandons the allegations against Dr.
Hoffman, Baxter, and Mr. Pinson under the Act, as well as the
claims for tortious interference and libel. Ms. Skroch
maintains her negligence claim against those parties, though
she offers a new theory for the Defendants' duty of care.
Now, the Plaintiff asserts that the Defendants' duty to
her arises out of the contractual relationship between Baxter
and LabCorp, rather than out of an obligation created by the
Act. Ms. Skroch does not respond to Dr. Hoffman's claims
regarding lack of personal jurisdiction and defective service
Service of Process
of process is "the procedure by which a court having
venue and jurisdiction of the subject matter of the suit
asserts jurisdiction over the person of the party
served." Miss. Publ'g Corp. v. Murphree,
326 U.S. 438, 444-45 (1946). Therefore, a defendant must
receive valid service of process for a district court to
exercise personal jurisdiction. See, e.g., Doshierv.
Facebook, Inc., 2019 WL 4784898, at *3 (E.D. Ark. Sept.
30, 2019). When service of process is contested by the
defendant, the plaintiff has the burden to prove proper
service. See Woolbright v. Tankinetics, Inc., 2013
WL 5373614, at *2 (W.D. Ark. Sept. 25, 2013).
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not themselves provide
for service of an individual within the United States by
certified mail, but Rule 4(e)(1) does permit service pursuant
to the rules of the state where the district court is located
or where service is made. Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(e)(1). The Arkansas
Rules of Civil Procedure permit service by certified mail
delivered to the individual or an authorized agent. Ark. R.
Civ. P. 4(g)(1)(A)(i). However, Arkansas law does not provide for
a party to serve a defendant simply by leaving a copy of the
summons at the person's place of employment. See
Dintelman v. Chicot Cty. Mem'lHosp., 2011 WL
1288482, at *4 (E.D. Ark. Mar. 31, 2011) (holding service of
process insufficient where it was served at defendant's
workplace, but he was not present and had not authorized any
agent to accept service of process on his behalf).
Lack of Personal Jurisdiction
service of process is not defective, a district court can
only exercise jurisdiction over a defendant who is not a
resident of the state if "personal jurisdiction exists
under the forum state's long-arm statute and ... the
exercise of personal jurisdiction is consistent with due
process." Wells Dairy, Inc. v. Food Movers
Int'l, Inc., 607 F.3d 515, 518 (8th Cir. 2010).
Arkansas's long-arm statute provides for personal
jurisdiction "to the maximum extent permitted by
constitutional due process." Pangaea, Inc. v. Flying
Burrito LLC, 647 F.3d 741, 745 (8th Cir. 2011).
due process requires that a non-resident defendant "have
'minimum contacts with the forum state such that the
maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions
of fair play and substantial justice.'"
Pangaea, 647 F.3d at 745 (quoting Int'l Shoe
Co. v. Wash. Office of Unemp't Comp. and Placement,326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)). "Sufficient contacts exist
when the defendant's conduct and connection with the
forum State are such that [the defendant] should reasonably
anticipate being haled into court there." Soo Line
R. Co. v. Hawker Siddeley Can., Inc.,950 F.2d 526, 528
(8th Cir. 1991) (internal quotation marks omitted). "The
defendant's contacts with the forum state generally must
not arise due to mere fortuity, but must arise because the
defendant has purposefully availed [himself] of the privilege
of conducting activities in the state."
Pangaea, 647 F.3d at 745 (internal quotation marks
omitted). Furthermore, an ...