United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division
LISA M. WILCOX, Plaintiff,
LAKE REGIONAL HEALTH SYSTEM, Defendant.
DOUGLAS HARPOOL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendant Lake Regional Health System's
Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 12). The parties have
fully briefed the pending motion and it is ripe for review.
The Court previously ruled on the United States' Notice
of Substitution and Motion to Dismiss. As set forth in the
Court's prior Order, Plaintiff's Amended Petition for
Damages brought several claims against Defendant Lake
Regional Health System, d/b/a Lake Regional Hospital;
Defendant Richland Medical Center, Inc., d/b/a Central Ozarks
Medical Center; Defendant Russell Johnson, M.D.; and
Defendant Robert Nielsen, M.D. based on alleged medical
malpractice and negligence. At this time, Lake Regional
Health System remains the sole defendant.
claims against Lake Regional, as set forth in the petition,
allege that prior defendants Johnson and Neilsen were
employees and/or agents of Lake Regional and were acting
within the course and scope of their employment with Lake
Regional resulting in Lake Regional being vicariously liable
for the acts of doctors Johnson and Nielsen. Plaintiff's
claims against Lake Regional are based on a theory of
vicarious liability for the actions of the doctors, not on an
independent claim against Lake Regional. Defendant argues
Plaintiff cannot provide sufficient evidence of employment to
proceed on her claim against Lake Regional because neither
Johnson nor Nielsen were employees or agents of Lake
response to the motion for summary judgment states Johnson
was an employee of Richland Medical Center and was not an
employee of Lake Regional Health System. However, Plaintiff
argues Nielsen had staff privileges at Lake Regional Hospital
where certain alleged actions were performed and therefore
Nielsen was an employee and/or agent of the hospital.
Court previously granted the United States' Notice of
Substitution finding that Russell Johnson, M.D. and Robert
Nielson, M.D. were acting within the scope of their
employment with Richland Medical Center, Inc., a federally
supported health care center, during the relevant events
alleged in the petition. (Doc. 50). For the reasons set forth
herein, the Court grants Lake Regional's motion for
judgment is proper where, viewing the evidence in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party, there are no genuine
issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Reich v.
ConAgra, Inc., 987 F.2d 1357, 1359 (8th Cir. 1993).
“Where there is no dispute of material fact and
reasonable fact finders could not find in favor of the
nonmoving party, summary judgment is appropriate.”
Quinn v. St. Louis County, 653 F.3d 745, 750 (8th
Cir. 2011). Initially, the moving party bears the burden of
demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material
fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323
(1986). If the movant meets the initial step, the burden
shifts to the nonmoving party to “set forth specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). To satisfy this burden, the nonmoving party must
“do more than simply show there is some metaphysical
doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586
question of material fact is not required to be resolved
conclusively in favor of the party asserting its existence.
Rather, all that is required is sufficient evidence
supporting the factual dispute that would require a jury to
resolve the differing versions of truth at trial.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at
248-249. Further, determinations of credibility and the
weight to give evidence are the functions of the jury, not
the judge. Wierman v. Casey's General Stores, et
al., 638 F.3d 984, 993 (8th Cir. 2011).
in Plaintiff's response to summary judgment she admits
Dr. Johnson was not an employee or agent of Lake Regional. As
a result, with regard to any claims against Lake Regional
arising out of Dr. Johnson's conduct the Court grants
summary judgment on those claims based on Plaintiff's
admissions. The Court is therefore left to analyze
Plaintiff's claims against Lake Regional based on the
actions of Dr. Neilsen, and the issue before the Court is
whether Dr. Nielsen was an employee or agent of Lake
Missouri statute governing alleged medical negligence
provides that Plaintiff may not recover against Lake Regional
for the alleged acts of Dr. Neilsen if he is not an employee
of Lake Regional. Jefferson ex rel. Jefferson v. Missouri
Baptist Med. Ctr., 447 S.W.3d 701, 705 (Mo.Ct.App.
2014), reh'g and/or transfer denied (Sept. 22, 2014),
transfer denied (Nov. 25, 2014), citing Mo. Ann. Stat. §
538.210. The Missouri Court of Appeals discussed the
statutory framework that applies to claims against healthcare
providers and their employees. The Missouri Court of Appeals
First, section 538.210.1 provides in pertinent part that in
claims “arising out of the rendering of or the failure
to render health care services, no plaintiff shall recover
more than three hundred fifty thousand dollars for
noneconomic damages.” Second, section 538.210.2(3), the
provision at issue here, instructs that “[n]o
individual or entity whose liability is limited by the
provisions of [Chapter 538] shall be liable to any plaintiff
based on the actions or omissions of any other entity or
person who is not an employee of such individual or
entity.” (emphasis added). Id. at 706-07.
statute does not provide a specific definition for the term
“employee” within this section. Id. When
a statutory definition is not provided, Missouri courts give
the word “their plain and ordinary meaning with help,
as needed, from the dictionary.” Id. at 709.
Applying this analysis, the Court of Appeals found the term
“employee” is defined as “[a] person who
works in the service of another person (the employer) under
an express or implied contract of hire, under which the
employer has the right to control the details of work
performance.” Id. at 709-10; citing,
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