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Miller v. Huron Regional Medical Center, Inc.

United States District Court, D. South Dakota

April 22, 2014

LINDA A. MILLER, M.D., Plaintiff,
v.
HURON REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, INC., CY B. HAATVEDT, M.D., as a Member of its Executive Committee and Individually, MICHAEL H. BECKER, M.D., as a Member of its Executive Committee and Individually, and PROASSURANCE CASUALTY COMPANY, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT PROASSURANCE'S MOTION TO DISMISS

KAREN E. SCHREIER, District Judge.

Defendant ProAssurance Casualty Company moves to dismiss Dr. Linda Miller's claim for interference with business relationships and expectations, which is the sole claim alleged against ProAssurance in Miller's First Amended Complaint. ProAssurance argues that Miller failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and that her claim should therefore be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Miller resists the motion. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

FACTS

The facts, according to the First Amended Complaint (Docket 81), pertinent to this order are as follows:

Miller is a general surgeon who began working at Huron Regional Medical Center (HRMC) in February 2004. Miller and HRMC entered into a contract in February 2009, in which Miller would act as an independent contractor at HRMC.

HRMC's executive committee began a review of 100 percent of Miller's patient charts on October 18, 2010. The review was initially intended to last three months but was extended for an additional three months in January 2011. On February 7, 2011, the executive committee instructed HRMC's quality risk management (QRM) director to send the medical records of one of Miller's surgical patients out for an independent external peer review.

HRMC's QRM director contacted ProAssurance on or about February 15, 2011, to assist in obtaining the external peer review. ProAssurance was the professional liability insurance carrier for HRMC. Upon the request from HRMC's QRM director, ProAssurance implemented its claims procedure, part of which included assigning a claim number to the file and a claims team. On February 21, 2011, the QRM director informed the executive committee that the peer review may take 60 days and then on March 21, 2011, informed the executive committee that it may take an additional 30 to 45 days.

While ProAssurance was conducting the external review, Miller was coerced by HRMC's executive committee to request that her privileges be reduced, unaware that HRMC intended to report her request for reduction in privileges to the South Dakota Medical Board and the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). Shortly after Miller requested a reduction in her privileges, HRMC informed Miller that the event needed to be reported to the NPDB because there was an external review taking place when she requested her reduction in privileges. Later Miller's OB-GYN privileges were terminated by HRMC's executive committee, which was also reported to the NPDB. Shortly thereafter, HRMC's CEO met with Miller and told her that if she did not voluntarily resign she would be terminated. To avoid another negative report on her record, Miller submitted her resignation on April 29, 2011.

Eventually, ProAssurance provided HRMC with a letter dated June 10, 2011, that was prepared by a claims specialist summarizing the contents of the external review in language largely favorable to HRMC and Miller. ProAssurance did not provide the specific report of the physician who conducted the independent external peer review to either HRMC or Miller.

At all times, ProAssurance was aware of the business relationships and expectations between Miller and HRMC. Further, ProAssurance was aware of the negative impact filing an adverse action report with NPDB has on a physician's career and ability to obtain employment. Miller claims, "ProAssurance's delay in providing its summary of the external review resulted in the decision of HRMC to file an adverse action report with the NPDB against Miller."

STANDARD OF REVIEW

When reviewing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court assumes that all facts in the complaint are true and construes any reasonable inferences from those facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Schaaf v. Residential Funding Corp., 517 F.3d 544, 549 (8th Cir. 2008). The court need not accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions. Brown v. Medtronic, Inc., 628 F.3d 451, 459 (8th Cir. 2010). To decide the motion to dismiss, the court may consider the complaint, some materials that are part of the public record, and materials embraced by the complaint. Porous Media Corp. v. Pall Corp., 186 F.3d 1077, 1079 (8th Cir. 1999). The complaint must contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face" to survive a motion to dismiss. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The factual content in the complaint must "allow the court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, 588 F.3d 585, 594 (8th Cir. 2009).

DISCUSSION

The sole claim alleged against ProAssurance in Miller's First Amended Complaint is a claim for tortious interference with a business relationship or expectancy. The elements of a claim for ...


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