United States District Court, D. Nebraska
JOHN V. HALTOM, Plaintiff,
KAREN PARKS, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. Gerrard, United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on Mental Health Associates
LLC's motion for summary judgment (filing 101) and motion
to dismiss (filing 135). The Court will grant the motion for
summary judgment, and deny the motion to dismiss as moot.
plaintiff's allegations are briefly summarized as
follows. In 2009, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human
Services (DHHS) began investigating domestic disputes between
the plaintiff, John Haltom, and his former wife. Haltom
claims that as part of its investigation, DHHS conspired with
private health practitioners to violate Haltom's
constitutional rights and, ultimately, take away his
children. These actions were purportedly motivated by
DHHS's "long standing resentment" of Haltom,
stemming from past litigation, his operation of adult
entertainment businesses, and his "political ambitions
within the State of Nebraska and its state departments."
Filing 6 at 3; 8, 9. To accomplish its goals, at least
according to Haltom, DHHS and the other defendants-all acting
"under color of state law"- partook in widespread
misconduct ranging from the production of false medical
evaluations to unwarranted "invasions" into
Haltom's home. Filing 6 at 5-6, 12. As a result, Haltom
says he has experienced "extreme emotional and physical
distress" and is "[unable] to function in
society." Filing 6 at 5.
that, Haltom asserts 37 separate purported claims for relief
against 49 named and 7 unnamed defendants, all premised on
alleged federal constitutional violations brought pursuant to
42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985(2), 1985(3), or
1986. Seefiling 6. Some defendants have
already been dismissed on motions to dismiss, filing 81, and
others were dismissed for failure to serve process, filing
the remaining defendants is "Mental Health Associates
LLC" (MHA). MHA was composed of Dr. James C. Carmer (one
of the previously dismissed named defendants) and three other
independent mental health practitioners, who entered into an
office-sharing arrangement. Filing 103 at 3; filing 102-6 at
1-2. They leased an office suite together and made
administrative decisions about rent, insurance, and support
staff. Filing 103 at 3. But they were all self-employed: they
maintained their own files, treated their own patients, and
did not pool or share the fees they collected. Filing 103 at
4; filing 102-6 at 2. They did not intend to create any
business association, and merely used the name "Mental
Health Associates" for convenience as a d/b/a name.
Filing 103 at 3; filing 102-6 at 2. They never created a
"formal partnership, joint venture, corporation, limited
liability company, registered trade name, or legal entity
whatsoever." Filing 103 at 4; seefiling 102-1;
filing 102-2; filing 102-7.
moves for summary judgment on two grounds: it claims that it
is not an entity capable of being sued, and that it cannot be
held vicariously liable for the alleged actions of those
associated with it. See filing 103. MHA also moves
to dismiss the case for failure to substitute parties as
required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 25(a). Seefiling 136.
judgment is proper if the movant shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.
R. Civ. P. 56(a). The movant bears the initial responsibility
of informing the Court of the basis for the motion, and must
identify those portions of the record which the movant
believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact. Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643
F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc). If the movant does
so, the nonmovant must respond by submitting evidentiary
materials that set out specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial. Id.
motion for summary judgment, facts must be viewed in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is
a genuine dispute as to those facts. Id. Credibility
determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing
of legitimate inferences from the evidence are jury
functions, not those of a judge. Id. But the
nonmovant must do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. Id.
Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational
trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no
genuine issue for trial. Id.
to Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(b), the question of what constitutes an
unincorporated association for capacity purposes will be
determined in accordance with the law of the state in which
the court is sitting. 6A Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R.
Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1564;
see Lundquist v. Univ. of S.D. Sanford Sch. of Med.,
705 F.3d 378, 380-81 (8th Cir. 2013). And under Nebraska law,
[a]ny company or association of persons formed for the
purpose of (1) carrying on any trade or business, (2) holding
any species of property in this state, or (3) representing
employees in collective bargaining with employers, and not
incorporated, may sue and be sued by such usual name as such