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Tyson v. Regency Nursing, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

January 23, 2018

SONJA M. TYSON, Plaintiff,
v.
REGENCY NURSING, LLC, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DAVID J. HALE, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Plaintiff Sonja Tyson brings this action against Regency Nursing, LLC, the owner and operator of Regency Center, a skilled nursing facility located in Louisville, Kentucky. (Docket No. 17) Tyson claims that while a resident at Regency, she received substandard care and suffered personal injuries as a result of Regency's negligence. Regency now moves for dismissal pursuant to the statute of limitations. (D.N. 24) Because the parties ask the Court to consider materials beyond the scope of the complaint and answer, the Court will consider Regency's motion for partial dismissal pursuant to the summary judgment standard rather than the standard applicable to motions to dismiss. And because there is a factual dispute concerning when Tyson should have known of her injuries, the Court will deny Regency's motion without prejudice.

         I. Background

         From 2010 until 2016, Tyson was a resident at Regency in Louisville, Kentucky. (D.N. 17, PageID # 83; D.N. 25, PageID # 131) In January 2016, Tyson became ill, exhibiting decreased appetite, fever, and vomiting. (D.N. 25, PageID # 133) On January 11, she was taken to the emergency room at Baptist Health Louisville. (Id., PageID # 131) Baptist Health diagnosed Tyson with a range of illnesses and injuries.[1] (Id.) Following her discharge from Baptist Health, Tyson did not return to Regency.

         Tyson originally filed this action in Kentucky state court against Genesis Eldercare Rehabilitation Services, LLC and Defendant Regency Nursing, LLC on January 11, 2017. (See D.N. 1-2) Tyson claims that Regency “carelessly and negligently failed to provide appropriate care[, ]” resulting in Tyson sustaining severe injuries in violation of Kentucky common law and Ky. Rev. Stat. § 216.515(6). (D.N. 17, PageID # 83, 84) She also alleges that Regency breached its agreement to provide her with adequate living assistance. (Id., PageID # 84)

         On February 14, 2017, Genesis removed the action to this Court. (D.N. 1) Thereafter, both Genesis and Regency filed answers to Tyson's amended complaint. (D.N. 18; D.N. 19) In light of a stipulation between the parties, the Court dismissed Tyson's claims against Genesis on September 5.[2] (D.N. 20; D.N. 21) Regency now moves to dismiss some of Tyson's claims pursuant to the statute of limitations. (D.N. 24) Specifically, Regency argues that “[t]o the extent that [Tyson's] claims for injuries arose prior to one year before the Complaint was filed, they are barred by the one year statute of limitations as set forth by [Ky. Rev. Stat.] § 413.140(1).” (D.N. 24-1, PageID # 118)

         II. Standard

         As an initial matter, Tyson argues that Regency's motion should be treated as a motion for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (D.N. 25, PageID # 130) On a motion for judgment on the pleadings, “a court may accept matters outside the pleadings, but in doing so it generally must treat the motion as one for summary judgment under Rule 56.”[3] Jones v. City of Cincinnati, 521 F.3d 555, 562 (6th Cir. 2008) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d) (internal quotations omitted)); see also Tucker v. Heaton, No. 5:14-CV-00183-TBR, 2015 WL 3935883, at *2 (W.D. Ky. June 26, 2015) (“Because this document is neither contained nor referenced in the pleadings, the Court must either reject the evidence or treat the motion as one for summary judgment.”). “Where one party is likely to be surprised by the proceedings, notice is required, but generally, whether notice of conversion of a motion [for judgment on the pleadings] to one for summary judgment by the court to the opposing party is necessary depends upon the facts and circumstances of each case.” Wysocki v. Int'l Bus. Mach. Corp., 607 F.3d 1102, 1105 (6th Cir. 2010) (alteration and internal quotations omitted). Thus, where a party has implicit notice that a motion for judgment on the pleadings might be converted into a motion for summary judgment and has had a reasonable opportunity to present materials outside the pleadings, explicit notice is not required. See id.

         Here, Regency received implicit notice that its motion might be converted to one for summary judgment and has had a reasonable opportunity to present materials outside the pleadings. Regency's own attachment to its motion precipitated this issue. (See D.N. 24-2) Converting a motion to one for summary judgment without giving explicit notice is appropriate where the movant is the first to attach material outside the pleadings. See S. Rehab. Grp., P.L.L.C. v. Burwell, 683 F. App'x 354, 361 (6th Cir. Jan. 18, 2017) (“Not only did plaintiffs have the opportunity to respond to the relevant issue prior to the conversion, they effectively caused it.”). Moreover, Regency has had a reasonable opportunity to present additional materials. Tyson raised the issue of conversion in her response brief. (See D.N. 25, PageID # 130-31) In reply, Regency did not request time to procure additional materials. (See D.N. 27) Cf. Sanders v. Bottom, No. 5: 14-417-DCR, 2016 WL 740429, at *2 (E.D. Ky. Feb. 24, 2016) (declining to convert a motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment where “[t]he plaintiffs requested additional time to take discovery before adjudication of the motion”). In fact, Regency attached additional material outside the pleadings to its reply, signaling acquiescence to Tyson's request that the motion be treated as one for summary judgment. (See D.N. 27-1) In short, Regency cannot claim to be surprised by the Court's conversion of its motion.[4]

         Nor is notice required as to Tyson. Tyson cannot claim surprise given that it was Tyson who argued that the motion should be treated as one for summary judgment. (D.N. 25, PageID # 130) Moreover, Tyson had a reasonable opportunity to present materials outside the pleadings, evidenced by the fact that she attached five exhibits to her response. (See D.N. 25-1; D.N. 25-2; D.N. 25-3; D.N. 25-4; D.N. 25-5) In her response, Tyson does not request time to procure additional materials. She merely argues that she “should be given a reasonable opportunity to present all material pertinent to the motion.” (D.N. 25, PageID # 130) In considering the attached exhibits, the Court is granting Tyson such an opportunity. The Court will therefore treat Regency's motion as one for summary judgment. The standard applied to a motion for summary judgment is different from the standard applied to a motion to dismiss.

         In order to avoid dismissal under Rule 12 for failure to state a claim, “a complaint must [merely] contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).[5] In contrast, summary judgment will be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). On a motion for summary judgment, the movant “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion[] and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant may do so by merely showing that the nonmoving party lacks evidence to support an essential element of its case for which it has the burden of proof. See id.

         If the moving party satisfies this burden, the nonmoving party must point to specific facts in the record demonstrating a genuine issue of fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). To survive a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must establish a genuine issue of material fact with respect to each element of each of its claims. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323 (1986) (noting that “a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial”). The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmoving party's position will be insufficient; instead, the nonmoving party must present evidence upon which the jury could reasonably find for it. Hartsel v. Keys, 87 F.3d 795, 799 (6th Cir. 1996) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252). Still, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Loyd v. Saint Joseph Mercy Oakland, 766 F.3d 580, 588 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255).

         III. Discussion

         In Kentucky, personal-injury and medical-negligence claims must be commenced within one year after the cause of action accrued.[6] Ky. Rev. Stat. § 413.140(1)(a), (e). Such claims are deemed to accrue “at the time the injury is first discovered or in the exercise of reasonable care should have been discovered.” § 413.140(2); see also Harrison v. Valentini, 184 S.W.3d 521, 524 (Ky. 2005) (“[A]ctual or constructive knowledge of the medical negligence triggers the commencement of the statute of limitations.”); Dixon v. Clem, 404 F.Supp.2d 961, 965 (E.D. Ky. 2005) (finding that personal-injury claims accrue when the plaintiff discovers or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have discovered her injury (citing Louisville Tr. Co. v. Johns-Manville Prods. Corp., 580 S.W.2d 497, 501 (Ky. 1979))). Additionally, “[t]he knowledge necessary to trigger the statute is two-pronged; one must know: (1) he has been wronged; and, (2) by whom the wrong has been committed.” Wiseman v. Alliant Hosps., Inc., 37 S.W.3d 709, 712 (Ky. 2000); see also Dixon, 404 F.Supp.2d at 965 (“[Personal injury claims] begin[ ] to run from the date the plaintiff discovers or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have discovered not only that he has been injured but also that his injury may have been caused by the defendant's conduct.” (quoting Louisville Tr. Co., 580 S.W.2d at 501 (internal quotations omitted))). Finally, “it is the date of the actual or constructive knowledge of the injury” (i.e., “the invasion of any legally protected interest of another”), rather than harm and symptoms, “which ...


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