Monday, February 3, 2020

Judge Gibbons of Lackawanna County Overrules Preliminary Objections of Health System in Med Mal Case

In the case of Kowalski v. Scranton Hospital Company, LLC, No. 2018-CV-4996 (C.P. Lacka. Co. Jan. 17, 2020 Gibbons, J.), Judge James A. Gibbons overruled Defendants’ Preliminary Objections to a Plaintiff’s Complaint in a medical malpractice action by rejecting a health system’s assertion that it was not involved in the treatment of the Plaintiff or the oversight of the hospital where the Plaintiff treated.

The health system indicated that it was a fictitious creation used for marketing and that it did not own, operate or maintain hospitals, or employ any healthcare providers. The system also asserted that it was not involved in the treatment of the Plaintiff’s decedent.

After discovery was allowed on these issues, the health system filed Preliminary Objections asserting the lack of personal jurisdiction, a failure to state a valid claim due to vague or overbroad agency allegations, combined with a Motion to Dismiss supported by an affidavit of non-involvement.

The court rejected the health system’s argument that it was a fictitious creation simply used for marketing purposes.

The court pointed to evidence in the record, including a press release issued by the health system’s CEO discussing the acquisition of the hospital in question in which it was stated that the system was looking forward to implementing strategies, including capital investments and recruitment with respect to that hospital.

As such, the court noted that, where there was “extensive evidence” from the health system itself that it maintain a significant control over the hospitals that it owns, including the hospital in question.  Judge Gibbons also found that the court found that the contacts that the health system had with the subject hospital were not random or fortuitous.

Overall, the court found that, although the health system had a principal place of business in Tennessee and was incorporated in Delaware, the case was properly filed in Lackawanna County where the Plaintiffs’ claims arose from actions that occurred at the Regional Hospital located in Scranton, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania.

Judge Gibbons ruled that Pennsylvania has an interest in adjudicating medical malpractice disputes that occur in Pennsylvania hospitals, even if that hospital was controlled by a non-president corporation.

As such, the court held that based upon the record before the court, there was specific personal jurisdiction over the health system as permitted by the law of Pennsylvania. Accordingly, the Preliminary Objections of the health system defendant filed against the Complaint were overruled.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this case may click this LINK.

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