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Carlos v. Chavez

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division

January 3, 2018

ROGELIO CARLOS III, MYRNA CARLOS, Plaintiffs,
v.
CARLOS CHAVEZ, VIRGILIO GONZALEZ, JAMES YBARRA, MARK DELGADO, CITY OF SAN ANTONIO, SAN ANTONIO POLICE DEPARTMENT, DETECTIVE JOHN DOE, NATIONAL NEUROMONITORING SERVICES, LLC, NEURODIAGNOSTICS AND NEUROMONITORING INST., INC., SOUTH TEXAS NEUROMONITORING, WILLIAM VANNESS, MARIBEL GOMEZ, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          RICHARD B. FARRER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         To the Honorable United States District Judge Fred Biery:

         This Report and Recommendation concerns the Rule 12(b)(1) Motions to Dismiss filed by Defendants National Neuromonitoring Services, LLC, Neurodiagnostics and Neuromonitoring Institute, Inc., South Texas Neuromonitoring, Maribel Gomez, and William VanNess (collectively, “Neuromonitoring Defendants”). See Dkt. Nos. 73 & 75. All dispositive pretrial matters in this § 1983 case have been referred to the undersigned for disposition by report and recommendation pursuant to Western District of Texas Local Rule CV-72 and Appendix C. See Dkt. No. 82. Because there is supplemental federal court jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' state-law claims against the Neuromonitoring Defendants, the undersigned recommends that the Rule 12(b)(1) Motions to Dismiss, Dkt. Nos. 73 & 75, be DENIED.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

          Plaintiff Rogelio Carlos, III is paralyzed. He attributes his paraplegia to complications from neck injuries sustained when members of the San Antonio Police Department, it is alleged, beat him during the course of his May 20, 2014 arrest. Dkt. No. 60 (3d Am. Compl.). Mr. Carlos's paraplegia, however, did not arise until over a year and a half after the alleged beating, and not until after he underwent surgery to address the neck injuries alleged to have resulted from the beating.[1]

         The Third Amended Complaint describes how, at first, Mr. Carlos's post-arrest injuries manifested as numbness in his hands and generalized tenderness throughout his neck. 3d Am. Compl. ¶ 80. It also explains that medical providers first treated his neck with steroid injections. Id. But his symptoms persisted and worsened, and he consulted an orthopedic surgeon who diagnosed him with cervical disc herniations at multiple levels pressing on his spinal cord. The surgeon recommended cervical surgery. Id. ¶¶ 80-81. Mr. Carlos received the recommended surgery on November 3, 2015, almost a year and a half after the alleged assault. It was only after this surgery that Mr. Carlos became paralyzed.

         Defendants National Neuromonitoring Services, LLC, Neurodiagnostics and Neuromonitoring Institute, Inc., and South Texas Neuromonitoring are alleged to have supplied the neuromonitoring services for Mr. Carlos's surgery. Id. ¶ 85. Maribel Gomez is alleged to have served as the technician, and Dr. William VanNess as the neurologist. Id. Mr. Carlos and his co-plaintiff wife, Myrna, allege that the Neuromonitoring Defendants failed to timely assess, monitor, and identify significant changes to his neurological activity, and that they also failed to timely communicate those changes to the surgeon, Dr. Bruggeman. Id. ¶¶84-91. According to the Carloses, these acts and omissions, along with the actions or omissions of the officers and city, are the direct and proximate cause of Mr. Carlos's paraplegia. Id. ¶ 92.

         In March of 2016, the Carloses filed their original complaint asserting § 1983 excessive-force and wrongful-arrest claims against the City of San Antonio and San Antonio police officers Virgilio Gonzalez, Carlos Chavez, James Ybarra, Mark Delgado, and Detective John Doe, in their individual capacities (the officers and the City are collectively referred to herein as the “City Defendants”). See Dkt. No. 1. Then, more than a year later, the Carloses sought leave to join the Neuromonitoring Defendants. See Dkt. No. 58. According to their motion to amend, records produced in May 2017 allegedly revealed that Mr. Carlos's paralysis was not merely a known and unfortunate complication of his cervical surgery, as the Carloses originally believed, but instead was at least partially caused by the alleged negligence of the Neuromonitoring Defendants. Id.

         On August 10, 2017, the District Court granted the Carloses leave to join the Neuromonitoring Defendants. See Dkt. No. 59. Shortly thereafter, the Neuromonitoring Defendants filed the two Rule 12(b)(1) Motions to Dismiss presently at issue, asserting in each that a lack of subject-matter jurisdiction with respect to the Carloses' state-law claims against them requires dismissal of those claims. See Dkt. Nos. 73 & 75.

         With the Neuromonitoring Defendants now parties to the litigation, the City Defendants soon moved for leave to file cross-claims seeking contribution against them. See Dkt. Nos. 84 & 97. The City Defendants also sought leave to designate the Neuromonitoring Defendants and Dr. Adam Bruggeman as Responsible Third Parties pursuant to § 33.004 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. See Dkt. Nos. 85 & 96.

         II. Analysis

         The Rule 12(b)(1) motions at issue challenge the subject-matter jurisdiction of the district court to entertain the Carloses' state-law negligence claims against the Neuromonitoring Defendants. Given that federal subject-matter jurisdiction in the case is based on the Carloses' federal § 1983 claims against the City Defendants, see 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and diversity of citizenship does not supply federal jurisdiction over the case, see 28 U.S.C. § 1332, there must be a basis for federal subject-matter jurisdiction over the state-law claims if they are to proceed in federal court. The doctrine of supplemental jurisdiction is therefore implicated.

         At the heart of the Rule 12(b)(1) motions' arguments opposing the Court's exercise of supplemental jurisdiction lies the difference in time and factual circumstances between events giving rise to the state-law and federal claims. The state-law negligence claims against the Neuromonitoring Defendants stem from an event-Mr. Carlos's surgery-that occurred over a year and a half after the alleged beating by police precipitating the § 1983 claims against the City Defendants. But as discussed below, Mr. Carlos's injuries are sufficiently at the core of both the state-law negligence and federal civil-rights claims to permit the exercise of supplemental jurisdiction over the negligence claims. Moreover, no factors counseling judicial discretion to decline supplemental jurisdiction are present at this time. Accordingly, the undersigned recommends that the two motions to dismiss be denied.

         Supplemental Jurisdiction Over the ...


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