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Pritchett v. Prosser

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division

September 20, 2019

SHERRY PRITCHETT, d/b/a PROFESSIONAL COUNSELING & MEDICAL ASSOCIATES, Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant,
v.
STEVE PROSSER and RINA PROSSER, Defendants/Counter-Plaintiffs.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS/COUNTER-PLAINTIFFS’ MOTIONS FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND REFERRING COUNTER-PLAINTIFF RINA PROSSER’S CLAIM TO THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE FOR A HEARING ON DAMAGES

          J. DANIEL BREEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court are the June 10, 2019, motions of Counter-Plaintiffs, Rina Prosser and Steve Prosser, for partial summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Docket Entries “D.E.” 72, 73.) Counter-Defendant, Sherry Pritchett, responded to both motions, (D.E. 85, 86), and Rina Prosser filed a reply, (D.E. 87), making the matter ripe for disposition. For the reasons discussed below, the motions are GRANTED.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The claims in this case arise out of a business relationship turned sour. Except as otherwise noted, the following facts are undisputed. Counter-Defendant is the sole proprietor of Professional Counseling and Medical Associates (“PCMA”). (D.E. 85-1 at PageID 483) Counter-Plaintiff, Rina Prosser (“R. Prosser”), is an advanced practice nurse licensed in the State of Tennessee. (Id. at PageID 482.) On March 9, 2015, Pritchett and R. Prosser entered into an independent contractor agreement whereby R. Prosser agreed to provide “professional advanced practice nursing services” for PCMA. (Id. at PageID 483.) Under the agreement, Counter-Plaintiff was to be paid “50% of all collections for services provided, ” and Counter-Defendant assumed responsibility for “providing and paying for billing services, debt collection services, and credentialing services.” (D.E. 1-8 at PageID 24; D.E. 85-1 at PageID 483.) The agreement also required thirty-days written notice to terminate the relationship. (D.E. 1-8 at PageID 24.) As time went on, however, Pritchett’s business began “going under financially.” (D.E. 72-2 at PageID 361 (Sherry Pritchett Dep. at 32, lines 12–22).)

         On May 12, 2017, without prior notice, Counter-Defendant terminated the independent contractor agreement via a letter delivered to Counter-Plaintiff’s husband, Steve Prosser (“S. Prosser”). (D.E. 85-1 at PageID 484; D.E. 85-3.) It is further undisputed that Pritchett, as she acknowledged in the termination letter, in her deposition testimony, and in her response, owes R. Prosser money pursuant to their agreement. (D.E. 85-1 at PageID 484–85; D.E. 85-3 at PageID 494; D.E. 72-2 at PageID 364.) Initially, Counter-Defendant wrote checks addressed to Counter-Plaintiff and gave them to her certified public accountant and financial advisor, Tom Beasley, to deliver to R. Prosser. (D.E. 85-1 at PageID 485.) Beasley did not transfer these checks to R. Prosser, however, because “Pritchett did not have sufficient funds in her bank account.” (Id.) Rather, Beasley advised Counter-Defendant to setup a payment plan with Counter-Plaintiff. (Id.) According to Pritchett’s deposition testimony, she also owes R. Prosser money for collections received after May 12, 2017. (D.E. 72-2 (Sherry Pritchett Dep. at 47–54).)

         In sum, it is undisputed that Counter-Defendant owes Counter-Plaintiff money for services performed pursuant to their agreement and that Counter-Defendant has not made any payments to her. What is disputed, however, is the amount owed. Based on the deposition of, and a financial report prepared by, Beasley, R. Prosser avers that Pritchett owes her $40, 889.76 in damages from the breach. (D.E. 72-1 at PageID 351–52.) Counter-Defendant argues that Beasley’s report is incorrect and that Counter-Plaintiff’s damages should be reduced by certain “insurance overpayments” that Counter-Defendant had to repay due to Counter-Plaintiff’s “miscoded patient claims.” (D.E. 85-1 at PageID 487–88; D.E. 85-8 at PageID 508.)

         During this time period, Pritchett also had an employment relationship with Counter-Plaintiff, S. Prosser. Although the exact dates of his employment are disputed, the parties appear to agree that it was sometime between December 2016 and May 2017.[1] Regardless, Counter-Defendant provided employer-sponsored health insurance to Counter-Plaintiff and his family during his employment. (D.E. 86-1 at PageID 532.) S. Prosser paid his family’s health insurance premiums directly to Pritchett who submitted the payments to the insurance company. (Id.) It is further undisputed that Counter-Plaintiff made two payments of $1, 358 to Counter-Defendant for health insurance premiums in May 2017.[2] (Id. at 532–33; D.E. 73-2 (Sherry Pritchett Dep. at 56– 58).) According to Pritchett, the insurance company cancelled the group policy on March 31, 2017, and refunded the May payments to her in July or August 2017. (D.E. 86-1 at PageID 532; D.E. 73-2 (Sherry Pritchett Dep. at 57–58).) Counter-Defendant does not dispute that she never refunded to S. Prosser the $2, 716 he remitted to her for insurance purposes, (D.E. 86-1 at PageID 533; D.E. 73-2 (Sherry Pritchett Dep. at 58)), yet she insists that the Prossers, “as a marital unit, ” would be unjustly enriched if she is required to repay this sum. (D.E. 86-5 at PageID 549.)

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On May 30, 2018, Sherry Pritchett filed a complaint against Rina Prosser, Steve Prosser, and four other defendants. (D.E. 1.) The Prossers filed their answers on July 28, 2018, and each asserted counterclaims against Pritchett. (D.E. 17, 18.) Subsequently, Counter-Defendant voluntarily dismissed her claims against all six defendants, leaving only Counter-Plaintiffs’ claims against Pritchett. (D.E. 30, 31, 32, 39, 41.) On March 4, 2019, the Court granted Pritchett’s counsel’s motion to withdraw and substitute counsel. (D.E. 50.) Shortly thereafter, Counter-Plaintiffs moved the Court to compel discovery, (D.E. 53), and Counter-Defendant asked the Court for an extension of time to complete discovery, (D.E. 59), which the Court referred to Magistrate Judge Jon A. York, (D.E. 57, 60). Magistrate Judge York granted both motions. (D.E. 64.)

         On June 10, 2019, Counter-Plaintiffs both filed motions for partial summary judgment- R. Prosser requesting summary judgment on her breach of contract claim, and S. Prosser seeking summary judgment on his unjust enrichment claim. (D.E. 72, 73.) Pritchett then filed motions to extend the discovery deadline and to require further discovery, (D.E. 75, 76), and the Court referred those matters to Magistrate Judge York for determination, (D.E. 83). Counter-Defendant filed her responses to Counter-Plaintiffs’ motions on July 8, 2019, (D.E. 85, 86), and R. Prosser filed a reply on July 22, 2019, (D.E. 87). Subsequently, on August 16, 2019, Magistrate Judge York denied Pritchett’s second motion to extend the discovery deadline. (D.E. 89.) Accordingly, the remaining motions are ripe for decision.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Under Rule 56, a court “shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The moving party “has the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine dispute as to a material fact.” Automated Solutions Corp. v. Paragon Data Sys., Inc., 756 F.3d 504, 520 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). “A dispute about a material fact is genuine ‘if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.’” Smith v. Perkins Bd. of Educ., 708 F.3d 821, 825 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Ford v. Gen. Motors Corp., 305 F.3d 545, 551 (6th Cir. 2002)). Conversely, “[t]here is no genuine issue for trial where the record ‘taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party.’” Burgess v. Fischer, 735 F.3d 462, 471 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus., Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). A court’s function at the summary judgment stage is not to “weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter”; rather, it is “to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); see also Bobo v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 665 F.3d 741, 748 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255) (“Credibility determinations . . . and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge.”).

         If the motion is properly supported, “the opposing party must go beyond the contents of its pleadings to set forth specific facts that indicate the existence of an issue to be litigated.” Slusher v. Carson, 540 F.3d 449, 453 (6th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). Thus, “in order to defeat summary judgment, the party opposing the motion must present affirmative evidence to support her position; a mere ‘scintilla of evidence’ is insufficient.” Jones v. City of Franklin, 677 Fed.Appx. 279, 282 (6th Cir. 2017) (quoting Bell v. Ohio State Univ., 351 F.3d 240, 247 (6th Cir. 2003)). Although a court does not weigh the evidence at this stage, it “must view all evidence and draw any reasonable inferences therefrom in favor of the nonmoving party.” Demyanovich v. Cadon Plating & Coatings, L.L.C., 747 F.3d 419, 426 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587). “[C]onclusory allegations, speculation, and unsubstantiated assertions, ” however, “are not evidence, and are not sufficient to defeat a well-supported motion for summary judgment.” Jones, 677 Fed.Appx. at 282 (citing Lujan v. National Wildlife Fed’n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990)).

         IV. ...


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