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T.C. v. Lifesouth Community Blood Centers, Inc.

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

September 20, 2019

T.C., a minor, by and through his guardian, mother, and next friend, LESA CASH, Plaintiff,
v.
LIFESOUTH COMMUNITY BLOOD CENTERS, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          TERRY F. MOORER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint (Doc. 6, filed November 26, 2018), to which Plaintiff responded (Doc. 11, filed December 17, 2018) and Defendant replied (Doc. 13, filed January 2, 2019). Defendant’s motion to dismiss is fully submitted and ripe for review. After a careful review of the pleadings, motion, response, reply, and the relevant law, the Court DENIES Defendant’s motion to dismiss for the reasons articulated below. Plaintiff also has filed a Joint Consent Motion to Set Hearing for Defendant LifeSouth Community Blood Centers, Inc.’s Motion to Dismiss on behalf of both parties, asking the Court to set a date for a hearing on the motion to dismiss (Doc. 16, filed 9/10/19). The Court finds that a hearing is unnecessary for a determination on the motion. And, in light of this ruling, the Court DENIES the motion as moot.

         I. Parties and Jurisdiction

         Plaintiff T.C. (“Plaintiff” or “T.C.”), a minor, brings this lawsuit by and through Lesa Cash, his guardian, mother, and next friend, asserting state-law claims under this Court’s diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.[1] Diversity jurisdiction requires (1) that the suit is between citizens of different states and (2) that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Where a party is a corporation, it is “deemed to be a citizen of every State and foreign state by which it has been incorporated and of the State or foreign state where it has its principal place of business.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(1). Plaintiff and Lesa Cash are residents and citizens of Elmore County, Alabama. The defendant, LifeSouth Community Blood Centers, Inc. (“Defendant” or “LifeSouth”), is a Florida corporation with its principal place of business in Gainesville.[2] Thus, the parties are diverse.

         Plaintiff seeks from the suit unspecified damages and does not state whether the damages he seeks from his claims exceed the jurisdictional minimum for a federal diversity suit. However, even where the complaint does not claim a specific damages amount, the district court may determine that the $75, 000 threshold has been met if is “facially apparent from the pleading itself that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional minimum.” Roe v. Michelin North Am., Inc., 613 F.3d 1058, 1061 (11th Cir. 2010). The Eleventh Circuit “permits district courts to make reasonable deductions, reasonable inferences, or other reasonable extrapolations from the pleadings in making such determinations.” Id. at 1061-62 (internal quotations and citation omitted). In other words, “a district court need not ‘suspend reality or shelve common sense in determining whether the face of the complaint … establishes the jurisdictional amount.’” Id. at 1062 (quoting Pretka v Kolter City Plaza II, Inc., 608 F.3d 744, 770 (11th Cir. 2010)); see also Williams v. Best Buy Co., Inc., 269 F.3d 1316, 1319 (11th Cir. 2001) (“When the complaint does not claim a specific amount of damages, removal from state court is proper if it is facially apparent from the complaint that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional requirement.”).

         Here, Plaintiff’s complaint alleges that, as a result of the incidents underlying this lawsuit, T.C. was involved in a serious car accident in which T.C.’s vehicle hit a tree; T.C. was airlifted to a hospital and placed under the care of a trauma team; and T.C. suffered a long list of injuries- including extensive skull base fractures, traumatic brain injury, hearing loss, and multiple lacerations, fractures, and dislocations-that were life-threatening and resulted in permanent life changes. See Doc. 1 ¶¶ 31-39. Based on the pleading, the Court finds it is facially apparent that resulting damages from the incident alleged easily could exceed $75, 000. Thus, the jurisdictional requirement has been met.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         The facts of this case center on a blood drive conducted November 1, 2016, by Defendant on the campus of Marbury High School in Deatsville, Ala., where T.C., was then a 16-year-old student. Doc. 1 ¶¶ 1, 12-13. According to the complaint, LifeSouth employees or agents permitted T.C. to donate blood despite being underage and having no parental consent. Id. ¶¶ 2-3, 14-15. The complaint alleges that LifeSouth employees or agents, in contravention of the company’s own standards and procedures, failed to verify T.C.’s age; failed to have T.C. fill out the 55-question donor history questionnaire and asked him only whether he had tattoos or allergies or was sexually active; failed specifically to ask him whether he had eaten in the last three hours, which he had not; performed an extensive double red blood cell donation to which T.C. had not agreed; caused T.C. to miss lunch due to the lengthiness of the more extensive donation process; and failed to provide T.C. adequate nutrition following the donation. Id. ¶¶ 3-6, 15-20, 23-29. The complaint alleges that, as a result of LifeSouth’s actions, T.C. passed out while driving his car three hours later, hitting a tree and sustaining life-threatening and, in some cases permanent, injuries. Id. ¶¶ 30-39.

         Plaintiff filed his complaint in this Court on October 31, 2018, asserting the following claims against LifeSouth: negligence (Count 1); wantonness (Count 2); negligent hiring, training, and supervision (Count 3); and respondeat superior (Count 4). From each claim, Plaintiff seeks unspecified damages plus interest and costs. Id. ¶¶ 40-61.

         III. Standard of Review

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Gilmore v. Day, 125 F.Supp.2d 468, 471 (M.D. Ala. 2000). To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). In considering a defendant’s motion to dismiss, the “court must view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept all the plaintiff’s well-pleaded facts as true.” Am. United Life Ins. v. Martinez, 480 F.3d 1043, 1057 (11th Cir. 2007) (citing St. Joseph’s Hosp. Inc. v. Hosp. Corp. of Am., 795 F.2d 948, 954 (11th Cir. 1986)). In other words, in deciding a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court will accept the petitioner’s allegations as true. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 2232, 81 L.Ed.2d 59 (1984); Ellis v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 160 F.3d 703, 706 (11th Cir. 1998); Roberts v. Fla. Power & Light Co., 146 F.3d 1305, 1307 (11th Cir. 1998) (citing Lopez v. First Union Nat’l Bank of Fla., 129 F.3d 1186, 1189 (11th Cir. 1997)). However, “[c]onclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions of facts or legal conclusions masquerading as facts will not prevent dismissal.” Jackson v. BellSouth Telecomms., 372 F.3d 1250, 1262 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting Oxford Asset Mgmt., Ltd. v. Jaharis, 297 F.3d 1182, 1188 (11th Cir. 2002)); see also Associated Builders, Inc. v. Ala. Power Co., 505 F.2d 97, 100 (5th Cir. 1974) (conclusory allegations and unwarranted deductions of fact are not admitted as true).

         Thus, a complaint should be dismissed “when the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 558, 127 S.Ct. at 1966. Further, “this basic deficiency should ... be exposed at the point of minimum expenditure of time and money by the parties and the court.” Id. (citations omitted). “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65 (citations omitted). Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level. Id. Thus, it does not require a heightened fact pleading of specifics, but only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Id. at 570, 127 S.Ct. at 1974. It is not enough that the pleadings merely “le[ave] open the possibility that the plaintiff might later establish some set of undisclosed facts to support recovery.” Id. at 561, 127 S.Ct. at 1968 (internal quotation and alteration omitted). Consequently, the threshold for a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss is “exceedingly low.” Ancata v. Prison Health Services, Inc., 769 F.2d 700, 703 (11th Cir. 1985).

         IV. Discussion and Analysis

         In its motion to dismiss, Defendant argues that all of Plaintiff’s claims should be dismissed because (1) LifeSouth qualifies as an “other health care provider” under the Alabama Medical Liability Act (“AMLA”), Ala. Code § 6-5-540 et seq., and thus, Plaintiff’s claims are subject to the requirements of the Act, and (2) Plaintiff failed to properly state his claims under AMLA. Doc. 6. Defendant argues that Alabama case law supports that a blood collector and processor qualifies as an “other healthcare provider” under AMLA, and that claims related to the collection and processing of blood are subject to AMLA, citing Wilson v. Am. Red Cross., 600 So.2d 216, 217 (Ala. 1992). Defendant also specifically asserts that Count 3 of Plaintiff’s ...


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