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Rawlins v. Select Specialty Hospital of Northwest Indiana, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

April 23, 2014

SARAH RAWLINS, individually and as Administrator of the estate of Aubrey Rawlins, deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
SELECT SPECIALTY HOSPITAL OF NORTHWEST INDIANA, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

JOAN B. GOTTSCHALL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Sarah Rawlins brought this action pro se against defendant for medical malpractice related to her husband's death. Before the court is Defendant Select Specialty Hospital of Northwest Indiana, Inc.'s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In the alternative, Select asks this court to dismiss the claim for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) or for improper venue pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3). The court concludes that Rawlins cannot establish personal jurisdiction over Select. Accordingly, the court dismisses the complaint under Rule 12(b)(2).

I. BACKGROUND

This is the second case Rawlins has brought against Select in this court for medical malpractice related to her husband's death. Rawlins filed the first case in this court on August 4, 2009. On March 8, 2010, the court dismissed Rawlins's amended complaint for failure to establish personal jurisdiction over Select. There, the court wrote:

Defendant is incorporated in Missouri and based in Hammond, Indiana. Defendant's chief executive officer avers that defendant owns no assets in Illinois, and transacts no business in this state. That affidavit also makes clear that all of the medical care giving rise to the plaintiff's claim took place at the defendant's facility in Indiana, and the Complaint does not allege any facts suggesting otherwise....
Sitting in diversity, this court applies the personal jurisdiction rules of Illinois, the forum state. Daniel J. Hartwig Assocs., Inc. v. Kramer, 913 F.2d 1213, 1216 (7th Cir. 1990). Illinois allows for general jurisdiction pursuant to its long-arm statute, and specific jurisdiction over persons engaging in certain conduct for suits arising from that conduct. See 735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/2-209(a) & (c). There are no facts suggesting that, whatever defendant's geographical proximity to this court, it has engaged in any conduct that would subject it to jurisdiction here. The burden is plaintiff's to establish personal jurisdiction, Steel Warehouse of Wis., Inc. v. Leach, 154 F.3d 712, 714 (7th Cir. 1998), and plaintiff has failed to do so. Her amended complaint is therefore dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction.

Rawlins v. Select Specialty Hosp. of Nw. Ind., Inc., No. 1:09-cv-04753, ECF No. 21.

Subsequently, on April 7, 2010, the parties agreed to transfer the case to the Northern District of Indiana. The case proceeded in that court, but on September 13, 2012, Rawlins filed a motion to transfer her case back to the Northern District of Illinois. The Northern District of Indiana denied the motion without prejudice. On October 26, 2012, Rawlins filed a notice of voluntary dismissal, and the Northern District of Indiana dismissed the case without prejudice on December 4, 2012.

Rawlins now returns to this court with a complaint containing identical allegations of medical malpractice as the amended complaint from her first suit. Select moves to dismiss for failure to state a claim, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) or in the alternative, for lack of personal jurisdiction, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3), or improper venue, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3).[1]

II. MULTIPLE MOTIONS UNDER RULE 12(B)

Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(g)(2), Select must consolidate its Rule 12(b) defenses into one motion rather than raise them seriatim. Select has done so, asking the court to evaluate its 12(b)(6) motion as the "primary" motion, and to evaluate the 12(b)(2) and the 12(b)(3) motions as alternative arguments. The court cannot evaluate the 12(b)(6) motion before discussing the 12(b)(2) motion.

In Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Environment, 523 U.S. 83 (1998), the Supreme Court considered an approach adopted by some federal circuit courts called the "doctrine of hypothetical jurisdiction." Id. at 94. Under that doctrine, courts would "proceed immediately to the merits question, despite jurisdictional objections, at least where (1) the merits question is more readily resolved, and (2) the prevailing party on the merits would be the same as the prevailing party were jurisdiction denied." Id. at 93. The Supreme Court rejected the doctrine, reaffirming that jurisdiction is a threshold requirement that must be satisfied before a court can pass judgments on the merits. Id. at 94 (citing Ex parte McCardle, 74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 506, 514 (1868) ("Without jurisdiction the court cannot proceed at all in any cause. Jurisdiction is power to declare the law, and when it ceases to exist, the only function remaining to the court is that of announcing the fact and dismissing the cause.").

Steel Co. involved a party filing motions to dismiss under Rules 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(1) (lack of subject-matter jurisdiction). But its logic applies with equal force to a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(2) (lack of personal jurisdiction). See Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 577-78 (1999) (noting that there is "no unyielding jurisdictional hierarchy" requiring a court to consider subject-matter jurisdiction before personal jurisdiction, but emphasizing Steel Co. 's holding that jurisdictional issues must be decided before merits issues).

The court must satisfy itself that it can exercise personal jurisdiction over Select before it addresses the merits of the case. Accordingly, the court must consider Select's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(2) before it can address the Rule 12(b)(3) and Rule 12(b)(6) motions. If the court determines that it lacks personal ...


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