United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
Gregory F. Van Tatenhove United States District Judge.
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.
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 of the rights guaranteed to Mr. White
under the Fourteenth Amendment. [R. 29 at 5-6.]
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).
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.
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
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.”
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).
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.]
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. ...