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Naughright v. Robbins

United States District Court, S.D. New York

October 17, 2014


M. Ari Jacobson, Esq., LAW OFFICES OF M. ARI JACOBSON, Teaneck, NJ, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

Howard S. Richman, Esq., GOLDSMITH, RICHMAN & HARZ, New York, NY, Attorneys for Defendant, Stephen M. Robbins.

Peter Joseph Fazio, Esq., AARONSON RAPPAPORT FEINSTEIN & DEUTSCH, LLP, New York, NY, Attorneys for Defendant, Woodson Merrell, M.D.


ROBERT W. SWEET, District Judge.

Defendant Woodson Merrell, M.D. ("Merrell") moves, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) ("Rule 12(b)(6)") to dismiss plaintiff Jaime A. Naughright's ("Naughright" or "Plaintiff") Second Amended Complaint filed on May 29, 2014. Based upon the conclusions set forth below, the motion to dismiss the complaint as it relates to Merrell is granted.

Prior Proceedings

Naughright filed an initial complaint against Donna Karan Weiss ("Karan"), Urban Zen LLC ("Urban Zen"), Stephen M. Robbins ("Robbins") and John Does 1-25 on November 8, 2010, which was dismissed November 18, 2011. Plaintiff filed a first amended complaint ("FAC") on December 9, 2011. On March 8, 2012, the FAC's negligent misrepresentation claim against Karan and Urban Zen was dismissed, the motion to dismiss the negligence claim Robbins was denied, the fraud claim against Robbins was dismissed in part, and the motion to dismiss the medical malpractice battery and failure to obtain consent claims against Robbins were denied. Naughright's subsequent motion for joinder of Merrell as a defendant was granted on October 22, 2013. On May 29, 2014, Naughright filed a second amended complaint ("SAC"). On August 12, 2014, Merrell filed a motion to dismiss the SAC as it relates to him for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). The instant motion was heard and marked fully submitted on September 17, 2014.


The allegations of the SAC are assumed to be true and are summarized herein only to the extent necessary to dispose of Merrell's motion to dismiss.[1]

Karan established a health clinic through Urban Zen, in connection with which Merrell was an "independent contractor, employee, supervisor, and/or shareholder." (SAC ¶¶ 12-13.) Merrell also held himself "out to be and acted in the role of medical director of the clinic." (SAC ¶ 14.)

On November 6-8, 2009, Urban Zen hosted a "Healing Weekend" to promote itself and invited Robbins to treat patients." (SAC ¶ 6.) At the beginning of the event, Merrell gave a presentation where he "promoted Robbins and touted his qualifications." (SAC ¶¶ 18-20.) Unbeknownst to Naughright, Robbins was not a licensed physician at the time. (SAC ¶ 40.) Merrell, however, had "actual knowledge of Robbins' lack of qualification and poor performance as a practitioner, " since Robbins had previously treated and injured Merrell. (SAC ¶¶ 22-24.) Merrell failed to revoke Robbins' privileges, warn Naughright, or otherwise intervene to stop Robbins' treatment. (SAC ¶¶ 25, 28.)

Naughright knew and trusted Merrell, as Merrell previously provided her with medical care and was an accredited physician at Beth Israel, a reputable hospital. (SAC ¶¶ 26-27.) Naughright allowed Robbins to treat her partly because Merrell did not warn her against doing so. (SAC ¶ 28.) Naughright suffered various injuries as a result of Robbins' treatment.

Plaintiff asserts three counts against Merrell: Failure to Investigate; Failure to Select Only Qualified Practitioners; and Negligent Retention. (SAC ¶¶ 54-83.) All of the causes of action are also characterized as "Negligent Credentialing." (SAC ¶¶ 54-83.)

The Applicable Standard

On a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), all factual allegations in the complaint are accepted as true, and all inferences are drawn in favor of the pleader. Mills v. Polar Molecular Corp. , 12 F.3d 1170, 1174 (2d Cir. 1993). However, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). A complaint must contain "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009) (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 570).

A claim is facially plausible when "the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 663 (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556). In other words, the factual allegations must "possess enough heft to show that the ...

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