UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
December 29, 2005
AMY J. HALLQUIST, PLAINTIFF,
CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY, ET AL, DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Hugh B. Scott
Decision & Order
The parties have requested clarification of this Court's December 22, 2005 Decision & Order granting the plaintiff permission to amend the complaint. More specifically, the parties seek clarification as to whether the Court ruled as to whether Dr. Frederik Verdonik and Dr. Israr Abbasi are employees of Women's Christian Association Hospital ("WCA") or Chautauqua County. The Court has made no such ruling.
In the papers supporting the motion to amend, the plaintiff expressly stated that she sought to name Dr. Verdonik and Dr. Abassi in their individual capacities as well as asserting a claim that the doctors were agents of WCA or Chautauqua County. (Docket No. 18 at ¶ 18). The sole issue before the Court, was whether the plaintiff should be allowed under Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to amend the complaint to assert claims against the doctors. It was not necessary for the Court to determine the agency/employment issue to assess the futility argument presented by defendants in opposition to the motion to amend. Under the liberal pleading standard that applies, the plaintiff was granted permission to make the amendment. The Court has made no ruling as to the merit of any claim asserted in this case, original or new. The Court notes that the current record may not be sufficient to determine the agency/employment issue regarding Dr. Verdonik or Dr. Abbasi. In any event, the parties have not presented a motion requiring the Court to make such a determination.
As stated in the Court's December 22, 2005 Decision & Order, the plaintiff's characterization of the doctors as employees of the County and/or WCA does not fix their status in that regard. If the plaintiff characterizes the doctors as employees of the County or WCA, those entities are entitled to deny that averment and to proceed accordingly. Ultimately, as to the merits of any claim based upon agency or employment, it is the plaintiff who bears the burden of proving the existence of such a relationship. If the defendants believe a motion to dismiss and/or summary judgment is appropriate with respect to such a claim, such a motion can be filed. With respect to the legal representation of the doctors in this case, the County, WCA and the individual doctors must, in the first instance, determine their respective positions on this issue. If a dispute regarding the obligation to provide legal representation on behalf of the doctors exists, the parties can seek appropriate judicial intervention in that regard.
Hugh B. Scott United States Magistrate Judge Western District of New York
Buffalo, New York
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