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Arora v. Buckhead Family Dentistry, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 8, 2018

SANJAY ARORA, Plaintiff,



         This matter is before the Court on Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company's renewed motion to dismiss, Dkt. 33, and the Court's Order to Show Cause why this case should not be transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Dkt. 37. For the reasons that follow, the Court will GRANT Cigna's motion to dismiss and will ORDER that the remainder of the action be transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1631.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court recounted the facts giving rise to this dispute in its prior opinion, see Arora v. Buckhead Family Dentistry, Inc., 263 F.Supp.3d 121, 125-26 (D.D.C. 2017), and will, accordingly, only briefly outline the allegations relevant for present purposes. In considering Cigna's motion to dismiss, the Court must accept the factual allegations set forth in the amended complaint as true. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         While living in Atlanta, Georgia in 2013, Plaintiff Sanjay Arora sought treatment for a cracked tooth from Dr. Travis Paige of Buckhead Family Dentistry. Dkt. 6 at 4-5 (Am. Compl. ¶ 15). Dr. Paige installed a permanent crown, which was manufactured by Global Dental Solutions LLC. Id. at 9 (Am. Compl. ¶ 48). The procedure was covered by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, Arora's dental insurance provider at the time. Id. at 4 (Am. Compl. ¶ 12). Soon afterwards, Arora began to experience intense discomfort and pain in the area surrounding the crown. Id. at 5-6 (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 22-24). The crown, it turned out, was not the “high noble metal crown” for which Arora and Cigna paid. Id. at 5, 7-8 (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 17, 36, 41). Instead, according to the invoice Global sent Buckhead Family Dentistry, Arora received a non-noble crown of lower quality. Id. at 8-9 (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 47-48).

         Arora “demand[ed] a full refund” of his portion of the dentist's fee (presumably, his co-payment) from Cigna so that he could have the crown replaced. Id. at 7 (Am. Compl. ¶ 39). In a letter dated July 10, 2014, Cigna described the procedure at issue as receipt of a “high noble metal crown on tooth #30.” Id. at 8 (Am. Compl. ¶ 41). In addressing Arora's complaints, Cigna stated that it “investigate[s] and take[s] appropriate action on all quality of care concerns, ” id. at 7 (Am. Compl. ¶ 40), and acknowledged its “continuing effort to provide quality of care and service, ” id. at 9 (Am. Compl. ¶ 49). It declined, however, to refund to Arora the “applicable patient copay[.]” Id. (Am. Compl. ¶ 41). Meanwhile, Arora switched dentists and had the crown removed. Id. (Am. Compl. ¶ 45). He eventually moved to the District of Columbia. Id. at 3 (Am. Compl. ¶ 8).

         Proceeding pro se, Arora brought this diversity action against (1) Dr. Paige and Buckhead Family Dentistry (collectively, “Buckhead”); (2) Global Dental Solutions, LLC, and Global's President, Brad Abramson (collectively, “Global”); and (3) Cigna. As relevant here, the amended complaint asserts claims for breach of fiduciary duty and negligent misrepresentation against Cigna, as well as a conspiracy claim against Cigna, Dr. Paige, and Buckhead. Id. at 20-23, 26-27 (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 115-36, 155-60).

         Buckhead, Global, and Cigna each moved to dismiss, Dkt. 7; Dkt. 11; Dkt. 18; Dkt. 33, and Arora responded to all three motions, [1] Dkt. 15; Dkt. 16; Dkt. 24. In resolving those motions, the Court first concluded that it lacked personal jurisdiction over Buckhead and Global under D.C.'s long-arm statute. Arora, 263 F.Supp.3d at 128. But, rather than simply dismissing Arora's claims against those defendants, the Court directed that the parties address whether the case should be transferred to the Northern District of Georgia pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1631 given Buckhead and Global's ties to Atlanta and the fact that “most, if not all, of the alleged events relevant to Arora's claims occurred in Atlanta.” Arora, 263 F.Supp.3d at 128. The Court further concluded that Arora had “failed to carry his burden of showing that he . . . properly effected service of process” on Cigna. Id. at 129. The Court, as a result, did not reach the merits of Cigna's arguments that Arora's complaint failed to state a claim and, instead, gave Arora a further opportunity to effect service on Cigna. Id. at 134.

         Each defendant opposed transfer on the ground that Arora's claims lack merit and that transfer, therefore, would be futile. See Dkt. 38 at 2-3; Dkt. 39 at 2; Dkt. 40 at 4. Arora, concerned about potential statute of limitations difficulties, requested transfer. Dkt. 41 at 6-7. He also filed a purported proof of service indicating that he had served “Cigna's Legal Department” and “Cigna's Attorney o[f] Record.” Dkt. 42 at 1. Because Cigna had previously requested that the Court consider the merits of its previously-filed motion to dismiss “if [Arora] file[d] proof of service, ” Dkt. 40 at 3, the Court asked Cigna to clarify whether it intended to contest service and, if not, whether the Court should treat its motion to dismiss as renewed, Minute Order (Aug. 10, 2017). Cigna, in response, waived any objection to service and renewed its earlier motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Dkt. 43 at 1-2. Arora filed a supplemental opposition. Dkt. 46.


         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible if the plaintiff pleads “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Although “detailed factual allegations” are not required, the complaint must contain “more than labels and conclusions, [or] a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The Court must “assume [the] veracity” of “well-pleaded factual allegations, ” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, and must “grant [the] plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged, ” Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court, however, need not accept “a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Cigna's Motion To Dismiss

         1. Choice of Law

         Because Arora has brought a diversity action, the Court “must apply the choice-of-law rules of the forum state-here, the District of Columbia.” In re APA Assessment Fee Litig., 766 F.3d 39, 51 (D.C. Cir. 2014); see Orchin v. Great-West Life & Annuity Ins. Co., 133 F.Supp.3d 138, 146 (D.D.C. 2015). The District of Columbia uses “a modified governmental interests analysis[, ] which seeks to identify the jurisdiction with the most significant relationship to the dispute.” In re APA Assessment, 766 F.3d at 51 (quoting Washkoviak v. Student Loan Mktg. Ass'n, 900 A.2d 168, 180 (D.C. 2006)). The Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws, § 145, supplies the four factors relevant to this inquiry: (1) “the place where the injury occurred;” (2) “the place where the conduct causing the injury occurred;” (3) “the domicile, residence, nationality, place of incorporation and place of business of the parties;” and (4) “the place where the relationship is centered.” District of Columbia v. Coleman, 667 A.2d 811, 816 (D.C. 1995).

         Applying these factors, Cigna argues that “the substantive law of Georgia applies” because “the alleged injury, the alleged conduct that caused the injury, and the relationship between the parties all occurred in Georgia.” Dkt. 33 at 12. Arora has not raised any objection to the application of Georgia law. The Court agrees with Cigna that the substantive law of Georgia governs this action because, by any measure, Georgia has “the most significant relationship” to the dispute. In addition to the considerations Cigna has identified, both Buckhead and Global are based in Atlanta, Georgia. Dkt. 6 at 3 (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 9, 11). The only conceivable basis for applying D.C. substantive law is the fact that Arora eventually moved to the District of Columbia. See ...

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