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NC-based doctor subject to jurisdiction in WDVA

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//September 15, 2022

NC-based doctor subject to jurisdiction in WDVA

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//September 15, 2022//

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Although a doctor who allegedly examined the Martinsville-based patient through a telemedicine program was physically present in North Carolina, there was personal jurisdiction over the doctor. The doctor’s alleged tortious actions are considered to have occurred in Virginia since the patient was located here.

Background

Michael Corradi sues Bradley J. Kolls MD, Private Diagnostic Clinic PLLC, or PDC, and Duke University Health System Inc. for injuries he allegedly suffered as a result of stroke treatment he received from defendants at the SOVAH Health Hospital in Martinsville, Virginia. This matter is before the court on defendants’ motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim, or alternatively to transfer venue.

Personal jurisdiction

Corradi’s pleadings detail that Dr. Kolls’ examination of and interaction with Corradi involved the use of a mobile robot located in Martinsville, Virginia, and a computer network linking Dr. Kolls to the SOVAH Health Martinsville emergency department. 

Although he was physically present at his office in North Carolina, Dr. Kolls examined Corradi and consulted with his Virginia physicians by means of the mobile robot and the Duke Telestroke Program. The pleadings specify that the Duke Telestroke Program works with Virginia hospitals by “sharing costs of computer and computer network equipment and providing ready access to its specialists.” 

Pursuant to Virginia Code § 8.01-328.1(B), Dr. Kolls’ active use of the mobile robot to examine and interact with Corradi in the SOVAH Health Martinsville emergency department sufficiently alleges personal jurisdiction under §8.01-328.1(a)(3), causing a tortious injury by act or omission in the state. Virginia’s definition of “telemedicine services” in § 38.2-3418.16 further supports a finding of personal jurisdiction over Dr. Kolls because his alleged tortious actions are considered to have occurred in Virginia since Corradi was located here.

Moreover, the pleadings assert personal jurisdiction over Dr. Kolls under §8.01-328(a)(1) and (a)(2), because Dr. Kolls’ participation in the Duke Telestroke Program with SOVAH Health Martinsville would constitute transacting business in Virginia and contracting to supply services in Virginia. In the alternative, even if Dr. Kolls’ actions are considered to be in North Carolina, Corradi sufficiently alleges that he caused tortious injury in Virginia and regularly engaged in business or a persistent course of conduct in Virginia. 

Next, specific information in the amended complaint plausibly supports the allegation that Dr. Kolls performed his treatment of Corradi as the actual agent of both Duke Health and PDC. Inasmuch as Corradi has plausibly alleged an actual agency relationship between Dr. Kolls, Duke Health and PDC, Corradi has sufficiently alleged personal jurisdiction over those entities based on Dr. Kolls’ treatment of Corradi on their behalf.

Venue

Although Corradi does not live in Virginia, he should not be penalized for his choice of venue. Corradi brought this action in state court in Virginia as his cause of action arose from his treatment by Dr. Kolls at SOVAH Health Martinsville. Corradi never entered North Carolina or availed himself of the protections that North Carolina law offers. 

In contrast, the amended complaint alleges that Dr. Kolls was licensed to practice medicine in Virginia and “maintained hospital privileges at the Virginia hospitals where he treats or treated patients via telemedicine.” In addition, guidance from the Virginia Board of Medicine indicates that the “practice of telemedicine occurs where the patient is located at the time telemedicine services are used.” 

Additionally, a number of the witnesses to the alleged injury are staff at SOVAH Health Martinsville, rendering a trial in the Middle District of North Carolina’s Durham courthouse less convenient to those witnesses. Lastly, defendants’ argument that the interests of justice support transfer to the Middle District of North Carolina because the case has not been pending long and proceedings are in their earliest stages does not overcome Corradi’s argument that the interests of justice weigh in his favor because the defendants chose to enter the Western District of Virginia to treat him and therefore should be held accountable by a jury of the district’s constituents. 

Defendants’ motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, failure to state a claim, or alternatively to transfer venue denied.

Corradi v. Kolls, Case No. 4:22-cv-011, Sept. 1, 2022. WDVA at Danville (Urbanski). VLW 022-3-388. 18 pp.

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