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Harter v. Ascension Health

United States District Court, D. Arizona

January 19, 2018

Carol Harter, et al., Plaintiffs,
Ascension Health, et al., Defendants.



         Pending before the Court is Defendant Ascension Health's Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 72). The Motion is fully briefed. (Docs. 83, 88.) For the following reasons, the Motion will be granted.

         I. Background

         On August 5, 2015, Plaintiff Carol Harter filed a Complaint against Carondelet Health Network d/b/a St. Joseph's Medical Hospital and Carondelet Neurological Institute, an Arizona corporation (“Carondelet Health Network”). (Doc. 1.) Harter alleged various discrimination claims arising from visits to St. Joseph's Hospital and Carondelet Neurological Institute (“CNI”) in August 2013, where Harter avers she received inadequate accommodations for her disability. (See Id. at 16-23.)

         On March 15, 2016, Harter and Carondelet Health Network stipulated to the filing of the First Amended Complaint (“FAC”), which added Plaintiffs Gerald Brown and Leticia Moran. (Docs. 13, 15.) Brown and Moran alleged the same discrimination claims as Harter, based on their visit to St. Mary's Hospital in November 2015 where they allege Brown received inadequate accommodations for his disability. (See Doc. 15 at 24-31.) To reflect the addition of Brown and Moran's claims, the case caption was amended to identify the defendant as Carondelet Health Network d/b/a St. Joseph's Medical Hospital, Carondelet Neurological Institute, and St. Mary's Hospital, an Arizona corporation. (See Id. at 1.)

         Carondelet Health Network filed its Amended Answer to the FAC on June 15, 2016. (Doc. 30.) Carondelet Health Network admitted doing business as St. Joseph's Hospital, CNI, and St. Mary's Hospital in August 2013 (when Harter was treated), but denied doing business as St. Mary's Hospital in November 2015 (when Brown was treated). (Id. ¶ 12.) Carondelet Health Network affirmatively alleged that SMSJ Tucson Holdings, LLC operated St. Mary's Hospital in November 2015 and currently operates all three medical facilities at issue in this case. (Id.)

         On May 1, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint. (Doc. 45.) The motion sought to add Dennis and Julie Lotz as plaintiffs based on allegations they received inadequate accommodations for their disabilities during visits to St. Mary's Hospital in December 2015, February 2016, July 2016, and September 2016. (See Doc. 45-1 at 21-32.) Carondelet Health Network opposed the motion, arguing in part that SMSJ Tucson Holdings, LLC owned and operated the medical facilities when the Lotzes were treated in December 2015 and thereafter. (Doc. 49 at 4-5.)

         To aid the Court in determining whether the change in ownership barred Plaintiffs' theory of a policy of discrimination, Carondelet Health Network was ordered to provide information regarding the relationship between the entities that held an ownership interest during the time periods in which Plaintiffs' claims arose. (Doc. 53.) In response to that Order, Carondelet Health Network set forth the following ownership structure: when Harter was treated in August 2013, the hospitals were owned by Carondelet Health Network. (Doc. 57-1, ¶ 8.) Thereafter, Carondelet Health Network changed its name to Ascension Arizona.[1] (Id.) When Brown and the Lotzes began receiving treatment in November 2015, the hospitals were owned by SMSJ Tucson Holdings, LLC. (Id. ¶¶ 9- 10.) SMSJ Tucson Holdings is owned by CHN Holdings, LLC, which is a joint venture between Ascension Arizona, Tenant Healthcare, and Dignity Health. (Id. ¶ 9.)

         The Court rejected the change in ownership as a basis for denying joinder of the Lotzes because, although now twice removed from direct ownership, “Ascension Arizona had an interest in the medical facilities at all times relevant.” (Doc. 60 at 8.) Finding all other requirements for leave to amend satisfied, Plaintiffs' motion was granted and the Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) was filed. (Id. at 11; Doc. 69.)

         In accordance with the caption of Plaintiffs' SAC, the Court ordered that “Ascension Health d/b/a Carondelet Health Network, a nonprofit corporation; and SMSJ Tucson Holdings, LLC, d/b/a Carondelet Health Network, a Delaware limited liability company” be substituted as Defendants in place of Ascension Arizona. (Doc. 60 at 11.) Plaintiffs' voluntary dismissal of Ascension Arizona and naming of Ascension Health, the foreign parent corporation of Ascension Arizona, serves as the basis for the pending Motion to Dismiss.[2]

         II. Standard of Review

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         A plaintiff opposing a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing that jurisdiction exists. Ranza v. Nike, Inc., 793 F.3d 1059, 1068 (9th Cir. 2015) (quoting CollegeSource, Inc. v. Academy One, Inc., 653 F.3d 1066, 1073 (9th Cir. 2011)). When “the defendant's motion is based on written materials rather than an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of jurisdictional facts to withstand the motion to dismiss.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Brayton Purcell LLP v. Recordon & Recordon, 606 F.3d 1124, 1127 (9th Cir. 2010)). “A plaintiff may not simply rest on the ‘bare allegations of [the] complaint.'” Id. (quoting Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 800 (9th Cir. 2004)). Uncontroverted allegations are taken as true, and factual disputes are resolved in the plaintiff's favor. Id. But allegations that are controverted by affidavit are not presumed true. Mavrix Photo, Inc. v. Brand Techs., Inc., 647 F.3d 1218, 1223 (9th Cir. 2011).

         B. Principles of Personal Jurisdiction

         Due process requires that federal courts obtain personal jurisdiction over the parties before adjudicating those parties' rights. Ins. Corp. of Ireland, Ltd. v. Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee, 456 U.S. 694, 701-02 (1982). Federal courts may exercise personal jurisdiction if (1) the forum State's long-arm statute is satisfied, and (2) the exercise of jurisdiction would comport with the constitutional requirement of due process. Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 692 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting Omeluk v. Langsten Slip & Batbyggeri A/S, 52 F.3d 267, 269 (9th Cir. 1995)). Arizona's long-arm statute permits jurisdiction to the fullest extent permitted by the U.S. Constitution. Morrill v. Scott Fin. Corp., 873 F.3d 1136, 1141 (9th Cir. 2017) (citing Ariz. R. Civ. P. 4.2(a)). Therefore, the jurisdictional ...

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