United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
Gregory F. Van, Judge
matter appears before the Court on Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss on the Pleadings. [R. 20.] Defendant Jewish Hospital
& St. Mary's Healthcare, Inc. in Shelbyville,
Kentucky, known also as Jewish Hospital Shelbyville, attempts
to moot Plaintiff Daniel White's claims by declaring and
covenanting not to pursue the medical debt at the heart of
this litigation. For the reasons that follow, Jewish
Hospital's motion is GRANTED IN PART and
DENIED IN PART.
one year ago, Plaintiff Daniel White filed a complaint in
this Court, seeking relief against Universal Fidelity, LP,
Link Revenue Resources, LLC, and Jewish Hospital Shelbyville.
[R. 1.] Mr. White had been held liable for debt incurred by
his wife at Jewish Hospital. Id. He claimed
Universal Fidelity and Link Revenue Resources had violated
the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), and sought a
declaration that he did not owe a debt to Jewish Hospital.
Id. Furthermore, Mr. White sought a declaration that
KRS § 404.040, the statute requiring a husband to be
liable for his wife's debts, is unconstitutional, as well
as damages and attorney's fees and costs. Id.
February 16, 2018, this Court granted a motion by Mr. White
to amend his complaint, as well as motions by Universal
Fidelity and Link Revenue Resources to dismiss all claims
against both parties. [R. 17.] This dismissed Universal
Fidelity and Link Revenue Resources as parties, and dismissed
the claims pertaining to the FDCPA, leaving only claims for
declaratory relief, damages, and attorney's fees and
costs against Jewish Hospital. Id.
their answer to the amended complaint, Jewish Hospital
included a provision, stating, “Jewish Hospital hereby
fully and forever releases and relinquishes any right it has
to collect the $475 debt at issue in this lawsuit from
Plaintiff Daniel White.” [R. 19 at ¶ 41.]
Immediately thereafter, Jewish Hospital filed a motion for
judgment on the pleadings based on lack of standing for
mootness as well as Mr. White's failure to comply with
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.1. [R. 20.]
motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) is
reviewed under the same standards as a motion to dismiss
under Rule 12(b)(6), and the Court is required to take as
true all well-pleaded allegations of the non-moving party.
Hindel v. Husted, 875 F.3d 344, 346 (6th Cir. 2017).
To survive under Rule 12(c), “a complaint must contain
direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material
elements under some viable legal theory.” Id.
at 346-47 (citations omitted).
the Court ruled on his motion to amend, Mr. White had not yet
sent notice to the Kentucky Attorney General of his intention
to challenge the constitutionality of KRS § 404.040.
However, he did so shortly after this Court's acceptance
of his amended complaint. [R. 21; R. 22; R. 23.] The Court
then certified to the Attorney General that the
constitutionality of KRS § 404.040 had been challenged
and permitted the Attorney General to intervene within sixty
(60) days. Rule 5.1 requires a plaintiff to file notice
“promptly, ” but does not enumerate a time limit.
Furthermore, failure to file and serve notice does not
forfeit a constitutional claim otherwise timely asserted.
Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 5.1(d). The Court finds that Mr. White did
comply with Rule 5.1, as the notices and certification were
each entered into the record within thirty (30) days of this
Court accepting his amended complaint. The time for the
Attorney General to intervene expired on May 15, 2018, and no
motion has been filed.
the issue of mootness remains. Federal courts, under Article
III of the United States Constitution, may not issue an
opinion which does not resolve “actual controversies,
” such as when the issue is moot, the parties are not
adverse, or when the court cannot grant relief. Flight
Options, LLC v. Int'l Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local
1108, 873 F.3d 540, 546 (6th Cir. 2017). Mootness occurs
when a case or controversy once existed, but circumstances
have changed so that such case or controversy is destroyed.
Sumpter v. Wayne Cty., 868 F.3d 473, 490 (6th Cir.
2017). Regardless of the legality of the alleged conduct
precipitating the original lawsuit, a case is moot if there
is no longer an actual controversy concerning the
plaintiff's rights. Alvarez v. Smith, 558 U.S.
87, 92 (2009).
exist to the mootness doctrine. For example, a case is not
moot where the controversy is “capable of repetition,
yet evading review.” Kingdomware Technologies, Inc.
v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1969, 1976 (2016).
Furthermore, a defendant cannot force mootness in a case by
voluntarily ending the unlawful conduct once plaintiff has
sued. Already, LLC v. Nike, Inc., 568 U.S. 85, 91
(2013). “[A] case becomes moot only when subsequent
events make it absolutely clear that the allegedly wrongful
behavior cannot reasonably be expected to recur and interim
relief or events have completely and irrevocably eradicated
the effects of the alleged violation.” Cleveland
Branch NAACP v. City of Parma, 263 F.3d 513, 530-31 (6th
Cir. 2001) (cleaned up). The party claiming mootness bears
the burden of proof. Id. at 531. “A defendant
claiming that its voluntary compliance moots a case bears the
formidable burden of showing that it is absolutely clear the
allegedly wrongful behavior could not reasonably be expected
to recur.” Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw
Environmental Services (TOC), Inc., 528 U.S. 167, 190
Court first turns to Mr. White's request for declaratory
relief, specifically that he does not owe Jewish Hospital for
his wife's medical debt, as this is the topic for Jewish
Hospital's covenant and motion. Jewish Hospital has
declared it will not seek to recover $475 from Mr. White, nor
will it sell the debt to a third party, nor will it seek to
recover any future debt incurred by Mrs. White from Mr. White
using KRS § 404.040. [R. 28 at 2.] They believe this
relinquishment renders this matter moot. Id. Mr.
White, on the other hand, believes this matter is ...