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Murach v. Bayhealth Medical Center, LLC

United States District Court, D. Delaware

November 15, 2018

JOSEPH E. MURACH, Plaintiff;

          Ronald G. Poliquin, THE POLIQUIN FIRM, LLC, Dover, DE, attorney for Plaintiff.

          Daniel A. Griffith & Scott G. Wilcox, WHITEFORD TAYLOR PRESTON, LLC, Wilmington, DE, attorneys for Defendant Correct Care Solution.



         Currently pending before the Court are Defendant Correct Care Solution's Motion to Dismiss (D.I. 11) and Plaintiff Joseph E. Murach's Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint. (D.I. 30). The parties have briefed the issues. (D.I. 11; D.I. 26; D.I. 32; D.I. 30; D.I. 39).[1]For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and DENIES Plaintiffs Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Joseph E. Murach filed this suit against Defendants Bayhealth Medical Center, Correct Care Solution, Connections Community Support Programs, David Pierce, Phil Parker, and James Scarborough on March 19, 2018. (D.I. 1). Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint on June 7, 2018. (D.I. 9). Plaintiffs First Amended Complaint claims. Defendant Correct Care Solution violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count II) and committed medical malpractice (Count III). (Id. at 24-32). Defendant was the medical provider at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("JTVCC") from 2012 until July 1, 2014. (Id. ¶ 6). Plaintiff was incarcerated from June 14, 2011 until his release on May 16, 2017, first at the Howard R. Young Correctional Center and then at JTVCC. (Id. ¶¶ 17, 121). Plaintiff was incarcerated at JTVCC during the period when Defendant was the medical provider. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's failure to provide him with appropriate and timely medical treatment for his Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis led to the development of Stage 4 colon cancer, which was first discovered on April 20, 2017.[2] (Id. ¶¶ 111-12, 119).

         Defendant has filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs claims against it. (D.I. 11). Defendant alleges that (1) the statutes of limitations upon Plaintiffs claims have expired (id. ¶ 3), and (2) Plaintiffs § 1983 claim "fails to reference or even identify a single policy, practice or custom maintained by [Defendant] that caused the alleged constitutional harm." (Id. ¶ 9). Plaintiff disputes these arguments (D.I. 26), but has filed a Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint to rectify the alleged deficiencies of the § 1983 claim. (D.I. 30).


         When reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court must accept the complaint's factual allegations as true. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). Rule 8(a) requires "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Id. at 555. The factual allegations do not have to be detailed, but they must provide more than labels, conclusions, or a "formulaic recitation" of the claim elements. Id. ("Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level... on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)."). Moreover, there must be sufficient factual matter to state a facially plausible claim to relief. Ashcroft v. Igbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The facial plausibility standard is satisfied when the complaint's factual content "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. ("Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief." (internal quotation marks omitted)).


         Defendant asserts that Plaintiffs claims (1) are time-barred by the applicable statutes of limitations and (2) fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiffs claims against Defendant assert a constitutional claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and an independent claim for medical malpractice and negligence. (D.I. 9).

         A. Statute of Limitations

         Under Delaware law, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice and negligence is two years. Del. Code Ann. tit. 18 § 6856. Under § 6856, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice runs from "the date on which the allegedly negligent act or omission occurred, and not when the injury manifested itself." Dambro v. Meyer, 974 A.2d 121, 138 (Del. 2009). However, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice may be increased to three years from the date of injury where "the occurrence [of the personal injury] was unknown to and could not in the exercise of reasonable diligence have been discovered by the injured person" within the normal two year period. Del. Code Ann. tit. 18 § 6856. Constitutional violations are also subject to a two-year statute of limitations. See Moody v. Kearney, 380 F.Supp.2d 393, 397 (D. Del. 2005) (applying Delaware's statute of limitations for personal injury claims to a § 1983 claim).

         Plaintiff argues that the statute of limitations is equitably tolled under the doctrine of continuous negligent medical treatment. Under this doctrine, "the statute of limitations runs from the last act in a 'continuum of negligent medical care related to a single condition occasioned by negligence.'" Benge v. Davis, 553 A.2d 1180, 1183 (Del. 1989) (quoting Ewing v. Beck, 520 A.2d 653, 662 (Del. 1987)). As both parties note, "[a] complainant invoking the continuous negligent medical treatment doctrine has the burden of alleging with particularity a course of continuing negligent medical treatment during a finite period" and "the facts in the record must establish that the treatment was inextricably related so as to constitute one continuing wrong." Benge, 553 A.2d at 1183 (citing Ewing, 520 A.2d at 662, 664). If a claim ...

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