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Mobile Diagnostic Imaging, Inc. v. Hooten

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

December 19, 2016

Mobile Diagnostic Imaging, Inc., Appellant,
v.
Racheal L. Hooten f/k/a Racheal L. Jones, et al., Respondents.

         Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CV-14-7349

         Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded

          William R. Skolnick, Andrew H. Bardwell, Skolnick & Joyce, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Randall Tigue, Randall Tigue Law Office, P.A., Fridley, Minnesota (for respondents)

          Considered and decided by Jesson, Presiding Judge; Stauber, Judge; and Reyes, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         1. The procedural requirements of Minnesota's anti-SLAPP statute, Minn. Stat. § 554.02 (2014), violate the non-moving party's constitutional right to a jury trial by requiring a court to make a pretrial factual determination that the non-moving party has produced clear and convincing evidence to support his claim.

         2. Minn. Stat. § 148.103, subd. 1 (2014), provides immunity for the act of reporting a licensee's or a potential licensee's misconduct to the Minnesota Board of Chiropractic Examiners, but this immunity does not apply to the act of disclosing this same information to others.

         3. A person pursuing a private attorney-general claim under Minn. Stat. §§ 325F.69, subd. 1; 8.31, subds. 1, 3a (2014), must demonstrate that the cause of action benefits the public.

          OPINION

          STAUBER, Judge

         Appellant challenges the district court's order dismissing its claims as barred by the anti-SLAPP statute, Minn. Stat. §§ 554.01-.05 (2014), and Minn. Stat. § 148.103, subd. 1, which provides immunity to persons filing complaints with the Minnesota Board of Chiropractic Examiners. By notice of related appeal, respondent challenges the dismissal of its claim under the Minnesota Consumer Fraud Act, Minn. Stat. § 325F.69 (2014). We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand to the district court for further proceedings.

         FACTS

         Appellant Mobile Diagnostic Imaging, Inc. (MDI) provided mobile magnetic-resonance-imaging (MRI) services to chiropractors until October 2013. MDI is wholly owned by Michael Appleman, who is not a licensed chiropractor. Respondent Stand-Up MidAmerica MRI, P.A. (SUMA) also provides MRI services. It is owned by respondent Wayne Dahl, a licensed chiropractor. MDI and SUMA competed for patient referrals from chiropractors. Respondent Rachael Hooten was formerly employed by MDI as a clinic manager, but was later hired by SUMA for the same position.

         MDI entered into contracts with chiropractors to provide MRI services at or near individual offices. MDI used "lease agreements, " which ostensibly paid a chiropractor for use of space in a parking lot, office supplies, telephone services, internet connections, and employee services. MDI employed technicians to operate the MRI machines and contracted with radiologists to review and interpret the MRI scans.

         Dahl had been opposed to MDI's business practices since 2003. Appleman had approached Dahl in 2003 and offered to pay him $200 for every patient Dahl referred for an MRI. Dahl rejected this offer as unethical. Dahl opened SUMA the next year and when chiropractors continued to use MDI, Dahl concluded that they were receiving "kickbacks" from MDI. Dahl posted a copy of a sample MDI lease agreement on his website, and described it as illegal. In 2008, Dahl complained to the Minnesota Attorney General's Office about MDI, but the attorney general did not initiate charges. In 2010, Dahl spoke to several chiropractors, seeking to discourage them from using MDI's services.

         In 2011, Hooten entered into a one-year employment contract with MDI; the contract included confidentiality and non-compete provisions. In November 2011, Hooten resigned from the position, stating that she had accepted another job. Hooten did not disclose that her new job was with SUMA. When Hooten left MDI, she took her personnel file, including all the original documents, and copies of MDI's lease agreements, customer lists, contact lists, policies, and ...


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