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Ruhe v. Bowen

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

September 26, 2016

JAN RUHE, individually, and PAUL B. FERRARA, III, as personal representative of the Estate of CLAYTON MAC WHITE, deceased, Plaintiffs,
v.
BRUCE K. BOWEN, individually, and SOPRIS MEDICAL PRACTICE, P.C., Defendants.

          ORDER

          DAVID C. NORTON DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on plaintiffs Paul B. Ferrara, III (“Ferrara”), personal representative of the Estate of Clayton Mac White (“White”), and Jan Ruhe's (“Ruhe”) (collectively, “plaintiffs”) motion for default judgment, ECF No. 11, as well as defendants Bruce K. Bowen, MD (“Dr. Bowen”) and Sopris Medical Practice, P.C.'s (“Sopris Medical”) (collectively, “defendants”) motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and venue, ECF No. 20. For the reasons set forth below, the court grants defendants' motion to dismiss and finds plaintiffs' motion for default judgment to be moot.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The instant dispute arises out of a medical malpractice and wrongful death action that plaintiffs filed against defendants on September 22, 2015 regarding Dr. Bowen's allegedly negligent treatment of White. Am. Compl. ¶ 28. Ruhe is a citizen and resident of Florida, id. ¶ 1, and Ferrara is the personal representative of White's estate which is located in South Carolina. Id. ¶ 2. Sopris Medical is a business organized and existing under the laws of Colorado, with its principal place of business in Eagle, Colorado. Id. ¶ 3l; Bowen Aff ¶ 2. Dr. Bowen, a physician at Sopris Medical, is a citizen and resident of Colorado, which is the only state where he is licensed to practice medicine. Am. Compl. ¶ 4; Bowen Aff. ¶ 1.

         Plaintiffs allege that Dr. Bowen began treating White on or about June 1, 2011, for chronic back pain, and that despite his knowledge of White's addiction and misuse of opioids, Dr. Bowen continued to overprescribe White opioids that ultimately led to White's fatal overdose from opioid and benzodiazepine intoxication on September 22, 2013. Am. Compl. ¶ 10-23. When Dr. Bowen cared for White, White lived primarily in Basalt, Colorado. Bowen Aff. ¶ 4.

         On September 22, 2015, plaintiffs filed the present action against Dr. Bowen and Sopris Medical, bringing the following two causes of action: (1) negligence and medical malpractice against Dr. Bowen; and (2) vicarious liability for Dr. Bowen's negligence against Sopris Medical. Am. Compl. ¶ 25-40. Plaintiffs seek actual, consequential, incidental, economic and non-economic damages, including conscious pain and suffering, emotional distress and punitive damages, and attorneys' fees and costs. Id. ¶ 31, 40. Plaintiffs contend that the court has general and specific personal jurisdiction over Dr. Bowen and Sopris Medical under South Carolina's long arm statute, SC Code § 36-2-803. Id. ¶ 6.

         Plaintiffs filed the present motion for default judgment against Sopris Medical Practice, P.C. on December 2, 2015. Defendants filed a response on January 19, 2016. Defendants filed the present motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and venue on January 18, 2016. Plaintiffs filed a response on February 18, 2016. Defendants filed a reply on February 26, 2016. The motions have been fully briefed and are now ripe for the court's review.

         II. STANDARD

         A. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction and Improper Venue

         When the defendant challenges personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff has the burden of showing that jurisdiction exists. See In re Celotex Corp., 124 F.3d 619, 628 (4th Cir. 1997). When the court decides a personal jurisdiction challenge without an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff must prove a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction. See Mylan Labs, Inc. v. Akzo, N.V., 2 F.3d 56, 60 (4th Cir. 1993). “In considering the challenge on such a record, the court must construe all relevant pleading allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, assume credibility, and draw the most favorable inferences for the existence of jurisdiction.” In re Celotex Corp., 234 F.3d at 628 (quoting Combs v. Bakker, 886 F.2d 673, 676 (4th Cir. 1989)). However, the court need not “credit conclusory allegations or draw farfetched inferences.” Masselli & Lane, PC v. Miller & Schuh, PA, 215 F.3d 1320 (4th Cir. 2000).

         B. Motion for Default Judgment

         Default judgments are governed by Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides for entry of a default “[w]hen a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend as provided by these rules.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). Entry of a default judgment is left to the discretion of the court. CT & TEV Sales, Inc. v. 2AM Grp., LLC, No. 7:11-1532, 2012 WL 1576761, at *2 (D.S.C. May 2, 2012). A court must “exercise sound judicial discretion” in deciding whether to enter default judgment, and “the moving party is not entitled to default judgment as a matter of right.” Id. A party, however, may oppose entry of a default judgment and “[f]or good cause shown the court may set aside an entry of default.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(c).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Defendants move to dismiss plaintiffs' claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), arguing the court lacks personal jurisdiction over them and that venue is improper. Def.'s Mot. 1. Plaintiffs assert that jurisdiction is proper under South Carolina's long-arm statute and that the court should grant limited discovery on the jurisdictional issue. Pl.'s Resp. 1. The court finds that it lacks personal jurisdiction over this case and that venue is improper. As a result, plaintiffs' motion for default judgment is moot.

         A. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(2) for Lack of ...


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