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Skroch v. Labcorp, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division

November 20, 2019




         Before 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.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Ms. 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.

         Ms. 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).

         In its 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.

         In her 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 of process.


         A. Service of Process

         Service 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).

         The 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).[1] 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).

         B. Lack of Personal Jurisdiction

         Even if 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).

         Constitutional 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 ...

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