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White v. Universal Fidelity, LP

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort

October 19, 2018

DANIEL WHITE, Plaintiff,
UNIVERSAL FIDELITY, LP, et al., Defendants.


          Gregory F. Van Tatenhove United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Daniel White's Motion for Declaratory Judgment and Defendant Jewish Hospital Shelbyville's Motion for Summary Judgment. Mr. White seeks a declaration from this Court that a Kentucky statute is unconstitutional. However, because Jewish Hospital is not a state actor, and therefore cannot be liable for potential constitutional violations caused by a state statute, no actual controversy exists. Avoiding an unnecessary constitutional question, the Court declines to reach Mr. White's request for a declaratory judgment. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion for Declaratory Judgment is DENIED, and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.


         Mr. Daniel White sued Jewish Hospital Shelbyville, along with several debt collection agencies, after Jewish Hospital held him liable for medical debt incurred by Mr. White's wife. [R. 1.] Jewish Hospital had attempted to collect this debt from him pursuant to Kentucky Revised Statute § 404.040, which requires a husband to be liable for his wife's “necessaries furnished to her after marriage.” According to Mr. White, this statute is discriminatory on the basis of gender, and thus, it violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. [R. 18 at 4.] Mr. White requested declaratory relief in two ways. First, he asked the Court to declare that KRS § 404.040 violates the Fourteenth Amendment. Id. Next, he requested declaration that he does not owe Jewish Hospital for the debt incurred by his wife. Id. He also requested damages, attorneys' fees, and costs for such a constitutional violation. Id. at 4-5. After a motion to dismiss, the Court dismissed Mr. White's request for declaration that he did not owe Jewish Hospital but permitted the other claims to proceed based on a claim for past infringement[1] of the rights guaranteed to Mr. White under the Fourteenth Amendment. [R. 29 at 5-6.]

         Now, Mr. White has filed a motion for this Court to issue a declaratory judgment, requesting this Court find KRS § 404.040 “unconstitutionally discriminates against married males.” [R. 34 at 1.] In response, Jewish Hospital filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing even if the statute is unconstitutional, Jewish Hospital cannot be held liable for resulting damages because Jewish Hospital is not a state actor. [R. 36 at 1.] Because federal courts have a duty to avoid unnecessary decisions of constitutional questions, the Court first addresses Jewish Hospital's Motion for Summary Judgment. See Tower Realty v. City of East Detroit, 196 F.2d 710, 724 (6th Cir. 1952).



         Summary judgment is appropriate “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 genuine dispute exists on a material fact, and thus summary judgment is improper, if the evidence shows ‘that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Olinger v. Corporation of the President of the Church, 521 F.Supp.2d 577, 582 (E.D. Ky. 2007) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). Stated otherwise, “[t]he mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

         The moving party has the initial burden of demonstrating the basis for its motion and identifying those parts of the record that establish the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Chao v. Hall Holding Co., Inc., 285 F.3d 415, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). The movant may satisfy its burden by showing “that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). Once the movant has satisfied this burden, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and come forward with facts demonstrating the existence of a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Hall Holding, 285 F.3d at 424 (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324). Moreover, “the nonmoving party must do more than show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material fact. It must present significant probative evidence in support of its opposition to the motion for summary judgment.” Hall Holding, 285 F.3d at 424 (internal citations omitted).

         When applying the summary judgment standard, the Court must review the facts and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Logan v. Denny's, Inc., 259 F.3d 558, 566 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). However, the Court is under no duty to “search the entire record to establish that it is bereft of a genuine issue of material fact.” In re Morris, 260 F.3d 654, 655 (6th Cir. 2001). Rather, “the nonmoving party has an affirmative duty to direct the court's attention to those specific portions of the record upon which it seeks to rely to create a genuine issue of material fact.” Id.


         Here, the parties have stipulated to the facts. [R. 31.] The parties instead dispute whether Jewish Hospital can be held liable for the damages associated with the alleged constitutional violations. Mr. White asserts that he has made claims only under the Fourteenth Amendment, not under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. [R. 37 at 5.] While the complaint does not mention § 1983 [See R. 18], Mr. White has requested damages pursuant to an alleged violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. No. provision in the Constitution allows for a cause of action seeking damages, and thus a plaintiff seeking damages must proceed under a statute authorizing such damages for constitutional violations. See Sanders v. Prentice-Hall Corp. Sys., Inc., No. 97-6138, 1999 WL 115517, at *1 (6th Cir. 1999); Thomas v. Shipka, 818 F.2d 49, 499 (6th Cir. 1987), vacated and remanded on other grounds, 488 U.S. 1036 (1989).

         The Court has already dismissed Mr. White's claims for declaratory relief, finding no basis for jurisdiction. [R. 29 at 5-6.] The only surviving claims pertained to his requests for monetary relief for damages incurred for alleged constitutional violations. Id. Mr. White tries to argue that Jewish Hospital continued to attempt collection of debts after this declaration, but the letters he provided were dated March 2, 2018, and April 9, 2018. [R. 37-1; R. 37-2.] Neither of these letters were sent after the declaration was made on April 10, 2018. [R. 28 at 2.]

         Because the only surviving claim is for damages, Mr. White's sole authorization for relief is 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Mr. White, however, maintains, he “has made no claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.” [R. 37 at 5.] He does not attempt to argue that Jewish Hospital is liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. [See generally R. ...

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