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Webb v. Oaktree Medical Center, P.C.

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

June 28, 2018

Stephanie Webb, Plaintiff,
v.
Oaktree Medical Center, P.C., Defendant.

          ORDER AND OPINION

         Plaintiff Stephanie Webb (“Plaintiff”) filed a Complaint against Defendant Oaktree Medical Center, P.C. (“Defendant”), alleging pregnancy discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”); sex discrimination in violation of Title VII, and breach of contract. (ECF No. 1-1.) This matter is before the court upon review of Plaintiff's objections to the Report and Recommendation (“Report”) (ECF No. 14) issued by the Magistrate Judge on May 16, 2018, recommending that the court grant Defendant's Motion to Stay Litigation and to Compel Arbitration. (ECF No. 15.) For the reasons set forth herein, the court ACCEPTS the Report of the Magistrate Judge. (ECF No. 14.) The court thereby GRANTS Defendant's Motion to Stay Litigation and to Compel Arbitration. (ECF No. 9.)

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The court concludes upon its own careful review of the record that the factual summation in the Magistrate Judge's Report is accurate, and the court incorporates this summary herein without a recitation. (See ECF No. 14.) On November 5, 2015, Plaintiff and Defendant executed a “Physician Employment Agreement” (“Agreement”), under which the parties agreed to arbitrate “[a]ny controversy, dispute, or disagreement arising out of or relating to the Agreement, or breach thereof….” (ECF No. 9-2 at 24 ¶ 12.) On March 2, 2018, Plaintiff filed the above-mentioned Complaint against Defendant in the Court of Common Pleas in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of South Carolina. (ECF No. 1-1.) On April 5, 2018, the matter was removed to this court under diversity of citizenship and federal question original jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441. (ECF No. 1.)

         On April 12 2018, Defendant filed a Motion to Stay Litigation and to Compel Arbitration (ECF No. 9), pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), 9 U.S.C. § 4, which provides in part that “a party aggrieved by the alleged failure, neglect, or refusal of another to arbitrate under a written agreement for arbitration may petition any United States district court … for an order directing that such arbitration proceed in the manner provided for in such agreement.” Id. On April 26, 2018, Plaintiff filed a reply brief in opposition to Defendant's Motion to Stay Litigation and to Compel Arbitration (ECF No. 11), and on May 3, 2015, Defendant filed a reply brief in support of its motion. (ECF No. 13.)

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(g), all pretrial proceedings in this case were referred to United States Magistrate Judge Shiva V. Hodges. On May 16, 2018, The Magistrate Judge issued the Report recommending that the court grant Defendant's Motion to Stay Litigation and to Compel Arbitration. (ECF No. 14.) On May 30, 2018, Plaintiff filed Objections to the Report. (ECF No. 15.) Defendant has not filed Objections to the Report. On June 13, 2018, Defendant filed a Response in Opposition to Plaintiff's Objection. (ECF No. 17.) Plaintiff then filed a Motion for Extension of Time, (ECF No.18), to file a Reply, and the court granted the motion, stating that Plaintiff's Reply was due by June 27, 2018. (ECF No. 19.) Plaintiff has not filed a Reply. The Report of the Magistrate Judge and Plaintiff's Objections are before the court for review.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         1. The Magistrate Judge's Report

         The Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation is made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina. The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a final determination remains with this court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The court reviews de novo only those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which specific objections are filed. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005). The court reviews those portions which are not specifically objected to only for clear error. Id. at 316. The court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the Magistrate Judge's recommendation or recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         2. The Federal Arbitration Act

         Congress enacted the FAA to address the hostility in American courts toward the enforcement of arbitration agreements by compelling judicial enforcement of a wide range of written arbitration agreements. See, e.g., Circuit City Stores, Inc. v. Adams, 532 U.S. 105, 111 (2004). Section 2 of the FAA provides that “[a] written provision in any maritime transaction or a contract evidencing a transaction involving commerce … shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.” 9 U.S.C. § 2. To compel arbitration under the FAA, the moving party must demonstrate “(1) the existence of a dispute between the parties, (2) a written agreement that includes an arbitration provision which purports to cover the dispute, (3) the relationship of the transaction, which is evidenced by the agreement, to interstate or foreign commerce, and (4) the failure, neglect, or refusal of the defendant to arbitrate the dispute.” Adkins v. Labor Ready, Inc., 303 F.3d 496, 500-01 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Whiteside v. Teltech Corp., 940 F.2d 99, 102 (4th Cir. 1991)). “[Q]uestions of arbitrability must be addressed with a healthy regard for the federal policy favoring arbitration … [and] any doubts concerning the scope of arbitrable issues should be resolved in favor of arbitration.” Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp. v. Mercury Const. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 23-24 (1983).

         “Although federal law governs the arbitrability of disputes, ordinary state-law principles resolve issues regarding the formation of contracts.” Am. Gen. Life & Acc. Ins. Co. v. Wood, 429 F.3d 83, 87 (4th Cir. 2005). “For instance, ‘generally applicable contract defenses, such as fraud, duress, or unconscionability, may be applied to invalidate arbitration agreements without contravening § 2.'” Id. (quoting Doctor's Assocs., Inc. v. Casarotto, 517 U.S. 681, 687 (1996)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         1. Interstate Commerce

         Plaintiff first objects to the Magistrate Judge's finding in the Report that the Agreement is one “involving commerce, ” as required under section 2 of the FAA, 9 U.S.C. § 2. (ECF No. 15 at 1.) In doing so, Plaintiff filed an affidavit, attached as Exhibit B to her objections, in which she affirmatively disputes that she ever treated any patient from outside South Carolina during her employment with Defendant and alleges that medical providers, such as Defendant, who style themselves as “pain management centers, ” avoid marketing to out-of-state patients in order to prevent exposure to patients with “drug-seeking behaviors.” (ECF No. 15-2.) This statement is contrary to what was alleged in paragraph 9 of the Declaration of David Webb attached as Exhibit A to Defendant's original Motion to Stay Litigation and Compel Arbitration, which stated that Plaintiff had treated a number of patients with addresses from outside of South Carolina during her ...


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