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Bevins v. Becker County

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

October 27, 2017

Corey Bevins, Plaintiff,
Becker County, Minnesota; Becker County Jail; Becker County Sheriffs Department; Randy Hodges; Unknown Becker County Sheriff; Essentia Health-St. Mary's Hospital; Donald Nelson; John W. Freeman; and Paula Peterson, Defendants.

          Corey Bevins, F.C.I. Elkson, Federal Correctional Institution, pro se Plaintiff.

          Angela E. Lord, Esq., and Charlotte Rusch, Esq., Vogel Law Firm, counsel for Defendant Essentia Health-St. Mary's Hospital.



         Pro se Plaintiff Corey Bevins brings claims related to the medical treatment he received while detained at Becker County Jail. (See Doc. No. 24, Second Am. Compl.) One of the Defendants, identified in the Complaint as Essentia Health-St. Mary's Hospital, moved to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, lack of personal jurisdiction, insufficient process, insufficient service of process, and failure to state a claim. (See Doc. No. 34.) In a subsequent filing, this Defendant entered a special appearance under its correct legal name--St. Mary's Regional Health Center. (Doc. No. 57.) For the reasons stated below, this Court recommends that Defendant St. Mary's Regional Health Center's Motion to Dismiss be denied. This Court also recommends that Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Randy Hodges be dismissed for failure to prosecute.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff alleges that he was taken to the Intensive Care Unit at “Defendant Essentia Health's hospital” by Becker County Jail staff for two seven-day admissions. (Doc. No. 24, Second Am. Compl. at 8.) During both stays, Plaintiff was “handcuffed and shackled” to his hospital bed. (Id. at 3-4.) During his second stay, Plaintiff “came to understand that he was suffering from acute pancreatitis and severe alcohol withdraw[al].” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that the hospital made discharge decisions “based on the demands of the Becker County Jail, rather than on medical needs.” (Id. at 8.) He also alleges that the hospital acted with “gross negligence” when it failed to monitor his condition following discharge. (Id. at 9.)

         Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a Complaint in the Northern District of Ohio. (Doc. No. 1.) The case was transferred here on December 22, 2016. (Doc. No. 4.) On May 15, 2017, the Court granted Plaintiff's IFP application and directed service by the United States Marshal upon the submission of properly completed Marshal Service Forms (USM-285) for each Defendant. (Doc. No. 25.) On June 19, 2017, Peter Jacobson, the President of St. Mary's Regional Health Center, was served with a Summons issued to “Essentia Health-St. Mary's Hospital.” (Doc. No. 32.) “Essentia Health-St. Mary's Hospital” does not exist as a legal entity and is not registered as an active trade name with the Minnesota Secretary of State. (Doc. No. 56, Affidavit of Peter Jacobson (“Jacobson Aff.”) ¶ 6.)

         II. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss

         Defendant argues that Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) (lack of personal jurisdiction), 12(b)(4) (insufficient process), and 12(b)(5) (insufficient service of process) because the Summons names an improper defendant that cannot receive service of the summons. (Doc. No. 35, Def.'s Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss (“Def.'s Mem.”) 2-4.) Defendant also argues that Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) because they are state law, medical malpractice claims, not federal claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and the Court cannot exercise diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Id. at 4-8.) Finally, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). (Id. at 8-9.)

         A. Service of Process

         Federal courts lack jurisdiction over an improperly served defendant. See Printed Media Servs., Inc. v. Solna Web, Inc., 11 F.3d 838, 843 (8th Cir. 1993). In this case, however, Plaintiff has sued the correct Defendant using the wrong name, giving rise to a “misnomer” situation. As the Fourth Circuit explained:

A suit at law is not a children's game, but a serious effort on the part of adult human beings to administer justice; and the purpose of process is to bring parties into court. If it names them in such terms that every intelligent person understands who is meant, as is the case here, it has fulfilled its purpose; and courts should not put themselves in the position of failing to recognize what is apparent to everyone else . . . .
The [defendant] corporation had the right to be accurately named in the process and pleadings of the court; and misnomer was properly raised by motion to dismiss . . . . When the motion was made, however, plaintiff, upon his request, should have been permitted to amend. What was involved was, at most, a mere misnomer that injured no one, and there is no reason why it should not have been corrected by amendment.

United States v. A.H. Fischer Lumber Co., 162 F.2d 872, 873-74 (4th Cir. 1947); see alsoRoberts v. Michaels, 219 F.3d 775, 777-78 (8th Cir. 2000) (adopting rationale of A.H. Fischer). “This misnomer principle is most obviously appropriate in cases, ” such as this one, “where the plaintiff has sued ...

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