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Blevins v. Aksut

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Northern Division

January 17, 2018

ELIZABETH BLEVINS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SEYDI VAKKAS AKSUT, et al., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          SONJA F. BIVINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This case is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motions for Leave to Substitute Personal Representatives (Docs. 155, 162, 163, 164). The motions, which have been fully briefed and are ripe for resolution, have been referred to the undersigned for a report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 72.2(c). Upon consideration of all matters presented, the undersigned RECOMMENDS, for the reasons stated herein, that Plaintiffs' Motions for Leave to Substitute Personal Representatives be granted as to Plaintiff Ruby Mae Kinney (Doc. 163) and denied as to all other deceased individuals listed in the motions at issue (Docs. 155, 162, 164).

         I. Background

         This purported class/mass action was filed on February 6, 2015, in the Circuit Court of Dallas County, Alabama, by 179 Plaintiffs[1] who claim that Defendant Seydi Vakkas Aksut, M.D., performed unnecessary interventional cardiology procedures on them at medical facilities operated by Defendants Selma Heart Institute, P.C. (“SHI”), [2] Baptist Health (“Baptist”), and Jackson Hospital & Clinic, Inc. (“Jackson”).[3] (Doc. 1-1). In the complaint, Plaintiffs asserted twenty-three claims against these Defendants, including claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1961, et seq. (“RICO”), the Alabama Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and other state torts. punitive damages, as well as interest, costs, and attorneys fees. (Id.).

         On March 6, 2015, Defendants removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1441, and 1446, asserting the existence of subject matter jurisdiction under § 1331 (federal question) based on Plaintiffs' RICO claims. (Doc. 1 at 3-4). In March 2015, Defendants filed motions to dismiss Plaintiffs' RICO and state law claims (Docs. 4, 10, 20, 33, 37, 54), and argued that the deceased Plaintiffs were improperly named as Plaintiffs. (Doc. 34 at 10). On March 20, 2015, Plaintiffs filed a motion to remand the action to state court. (Doc. 46). On March 28, 2016, the Court denied Plaintiffs' motion to remand and granted Defendants' motions to dismiss Plaintiffs' RICO claims on the ground that Plaintiffs had failed to allege injury to their business or property and, thus, lacked standing to maintain a RICO claim. (Doc. 134, 135). The Court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' state law claims and dismissed the action in its entirety. (Id.). On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, on March 1, 2017, reversed the Court's RICO ruling, and issued a mandate to reinstate the action. (Docs. 141, 142).

         At a status conference conducted on July 17, 2017, Defendants again argued that the deceased Plaintiffs were improperly named as Plaintiffs. The Court afforded Plaintiffs until July 31, 2017, to file any motions for leave to substitute personal representatives for the deceased Plaintiffs named in the complaint. On July 29, 2017, and July 31, 2017, Plaintiffs' counsel filed the present motions, requesting leave to substitute personal representatives for several of the deceased individuals named in the Complaint. (Docs. 155, 162, 163, 164). These motions have been fully briefed and are now ready for resolution.

         II. Discussion

         In Plaintiffs' motions to substitute personal representatives for the named deceased individuals, Plaintiffs include three groups of persons: (1) individuals identified as deceased but who are not named in the complaint and are not parties to this action; (2) Plaintiffs were named and identified as deceased at the time the Complaint was filed;[4] and (3) one named Plaintiff who is recently deceased. The Court addresses those categories of individuals separately.

         A. Deceased Individuals Not Named in the Complaint

         The Court first addresses the individuals listed in the motions to substitute (Docs. 155, 162, 164) who are not parties to this action. Those individuals are:

(1) Bennett, Earnest C. (Doc. 155);
(2) Brooks, Larry (Doc. 155);
(3) Haynes, Robert (Doc. 155);
(4) Jones, Laura Mae (Doc. 155);
(5) Jones, Lorenzo (Doc. 155);
(6) King, Jr., Robert Lee (Doc. 155);
(7) Mitchell, Sr., Lee Dexter (Doc. 155);
(8) Morton, Thomasine (Doc. 155);
(9) Reese, Ceola (Doc. 155);
(10) Rose, Jr., Henderson (Doc. 155);
(11) Tolbert, Jessie Mae (Doc. 155);
(12) Watts, Roosevelt (Doc. 155);
(13) Williams, Gurther Dean (Doc. 155);
(14) Williams Walters, Ruth Eyvonne (Doc. 155);
(15) Wilmot, Joseph Michael (Doc. 155);
(16) Wilson, Jr., Johnny (Doc. 155);
(17) Cash, Wayne (Doc. 162);
(18) Harris, Jr., Fred (Doc. 162);
(19) Thomas, Tom (Doc. 164).

         In their motions to substitute, Plaintiffs have requested, without argument or citation to legal authority, that the Court grant them leave to “substitute” personal representatives for the nineteen deceased individuals listed above (Docs. 155, 162, 164), none of whom is a party to this action. Apparently, Plaintiffs actually seek leave to amend the complaint to add new parties, namely, the personal representatives for the non-party deceased individuals listed above. Based on the circumstances presented, Plaintiffs' request is unavailing.

         Rule 15 allows parties to amend their pleadings once within a short time after the filing of responsive pleadings, and after that, “only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave, ” which “[t]he court should freely give ... when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). The thrust of Rule 15(a) is to allow parties to have their claims heard on the merits, and accordingly, district courts should liberally grant leave to amend when “the underlying facts or circumstances relied upon by a plaintiff may be a proper subject of relief.” In re Engle Cases, 767 F.3d 1082, 1108-09 (11th Cir. 2014)(quoting Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)). Nevertheless, a motion for leave to amend may appropriately be denied “(1) where there has been undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive, or repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed; (2) where allowing amendment would cause undue prejudice to the opposing party; or (3) where amendment would be ...


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