Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Lockett-Johnson v. United States

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

March 29, 2018

MELAYAH LOCKETT-JOHNSON, a minor, by her mother and next friend, SYDNIE WILLIAMSON, and SYDNIE WILLIAMSON, individually, Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and SILVER CROSS HOSPITAL AND MEDICAL CENTERS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SHARON JOHNSON COLEMAN United States District Court Judge

         The plaintiff, Sydnie Williamson, on behalf of herself and her daughter Melayah Lockett-Johnson, brought this action arising from a birth-injury against the United States and Silver Cross Hospital and Medical Centers. The United States now moves this Court to grant summary judgment in its favor based on Williamson's failure to comply with the Federal Tort Claims Act's statute of limitations. For the reasons set forth herein, that motion [52] is granted.

         Background

         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. Williamson became pregnant in 2010 and received prenatal care from the Will County Community Health Center (WCCHC). WCCHC is a federally qualified health center that received grant money from the Health Resources Services Administration and was therefore subject to the Federal Tort Claims Act during the times at issue. Dr. Garcini had a contract with WCCHC to provide on-call delivery services for WCCHC patients at Silver Cross Hospital, and therefore constituted a federal employee within the meaning of the Federal Tort Claims Act. Dr. Garcini only saw WCCHC patients at Silver Cross Hospital and did not provide any services at WCCHC's primary location. Dr. Garcini, however, also saw patients at Silver Cross Hospital on behalf of the hospital and his own medical practice, Partners in Obstetrics and Women's Health, P.C.

         On March 21, 2011, Williamson went into labor and sought medical care at Silver Cross Hospital. Dr. Garcini, who had seen Williamson previously, delivered Melayah. During the course of the delivery, Melayah suffered from a brief shoulder dystocia[1], which was promptly relieved. The delivery proceeded successfully without other complications. On Williamson's discharge from Silver Cross, Dr. Garcini completed and signed an “obstetrics discharge summary sheet” which indicated that the “attending physician” had been “WCCHC.” On March 21, Williamson also completed a consent form, on which she acknowledged, in pertinent part, that “all physicians . . . furnishing services to me . . . are independent contractors and are not employees or agents of the hospital.”

         In April 2011, Williamson took her daughter to the Children's Memorial Hospital brachial plexus clinic. During that visit, Melayah was diagnosed with Erb's paralysis in her right arm which was attributed to a birth injury. Williamson retained counsel shortly thereafter, potentially after viewing a television ad suggesting that Erb's paralysis might result from legally actionable medical conduct. Counsel for Williamson began investigating her claims, and requested relevant medical records during 2011. Williamson's counsel subsequently sought the input of multiple physicians. In January 2014, one of those physicians returned the opinion that Dr. Garcini's negligence had caused Melayah's injuries.

         On October 6, 2014, Williamson filed a lawsuit against Dr. Garcini, individually and as an employee of Silver Cross Hospital and Partners in Obstetrics and Women's Health, in Will County Circuit Court. That lawsuit was subsequently removed to federal court in light of Dr. Garcini's status as a federal employee. The case was ultimately dismissed on October 14, 2015, based on Williamson's failure to exhaust the FTCA's administrative claim requirement.

         On December 17, 2015, Williamson sent her administrative claim to the Department of Health and Human Services. Williamson subsequently filed this action on August 11, 2016. The United States now moves for summary judgment, based on Williamson's failure to comply with the applicable statute of limitations.

         Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is proper when “the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, this Court must view the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the party opposing the motion. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). However, “[m]erely alleging a factual dispute cannot defeat the summary judgment motion.” Samuels v. Wilder, 871 F.2d 1346, 1349 (7th Cir. 1989). “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-movant's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant].” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

         Discussion

         Williamson's claims against Dr. Garcini are brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), a Federal statute which enables plaintiffs to file civil suits against the Federal government and its agents. 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b). The FTCA is subject to a statute of limitations which requires that a claim against the federal government or its employees must be presented to the appropriate administrative agency within two years “after such claim accrues” or it will be “forever barred.” 28 U.S.C. § 2401(b).

         In FTCA cases alleging medical malpractice, a plaintiff's claim accrues when the plaintiff discovers, or a reasonable person in the plaintiff's position would have discovered, that she has in fact been injured by an act or omission attributable to the government. E.Y. ex rel. Wallace v. U.S., 758 F.3d 861, 865 (7th Cir. 2014). Therefore, a plaintiff's claim accrues when the plaintiff knew enough, or should have known enough, to suspect that his or her injury had a “doctor-related cause.” Arroyo v. United States, 656 F.3d 663, 665 (7th Cir. 2011) (citing United States v. Kubrick, 444 U.S. 11, 123, 100 S.Ct. 352, 62 L.Ed.2d 259 (1979). Accrual, however, “does not wait until the plaintiff learns that their injury was caused by a doctor's negligence.” Arroyo, 656 F.3d at 665 (citing Kubrick, 444 U.S. at 123).

         Here, Williamson contends that she had no actual knowledge that her daughter's injuries resulted from Dr. Garcini's negligence until her experts informed her of their opinions to that effect in January 2014. Until that time, Williamson contends it would have been impossible for her to rule out the possibility that Melayah's injury resulted from the “maternal forces of labor.” Williamson, however, conflates establishing a doctor-related cause and establishing a doctor's negligence. Although Williamson and her lawyers may not have known whether negligence caused Lockett-Johnson's injury before January 2014, it is undisputed that in 2011 Williamson contacted an attorney because she “felt the doctor was at fault” for her daughter's Erb's palsy. (Dkt. 54-1173:16-19). Thus, by 2011 Williamson knew enough to suspect that the injury had been or may have been caused by Dr. Garcini. See Blanche v. United States, 811 F.3d 953, 959 (7th Cir. 2016) (recognizing that retaining counsel indicates a subjective belief that ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.