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Isaacs v. Trustees of Dartmouth College

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

July 12, 2017

Dr. Jeffrey Isaacs
Trustees of Dartmouth College, NH Board of Medicine, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center Opinion No. 2017 DNH 136


          Landya McCafferty United States District Judge

         Asserting claims that arise from a disciplinary action taken against him by the New Hampshire Board of Medicine (“Board”), Dr. Jeffrey Isaacs has sued the Board, the Trustees of Dartmouth College (“Trustees”), and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (“DHMC”).[1] Against DHMC (and the Trustees), plaintiff brings: (1) substantive and procedural due process claims, through the vehicle of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count VI); (2) a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) (Count VII); (3) a retaliation claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213 (Count VIII); and (4) a claim captioned “Injunctive Relief” (Count IX). Before the court is DHMC's motion to dismiss. Plaintiff objects. For the reasons that follow: (1) DHMC's motion to dismiss is granted as to Counts VI, VII, and IX; (2) Counts VI, VII, and IX are dismissed as to the Trustees, sua sponte; (3) plaintiff's § 1985(3) claim against the Board, asserted in Count II, is dismissed sua sponte; and (4) plaintiff is ordered to show cause why the ADA retaliation claims he asserts in Counts IV and VIII should not be dismissed, with prejudice, for failure to exhaust the administrative remedies available to him.

         I. The Legal Standard

         Under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept the factual allegations in the complaint as true, construe reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor, and “determine whether the factual allegations in the plaintiff's complaint set forth a plausible claim upon which relief may be granted.” Foley v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 772 F.3d 63, 71 (1st Cir. 2014) (citation omitted). 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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Analyzing plausibility is “a context-specific task” in which the court relies on its “judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679.

         II. Background

         The facts recited in this section are drawn from: (1) plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (“FAC”); (2) exhibits attached to plaintiff's original complaint; (3) other “documentation incorporated by reference in the complaint, ” Sanders v. Phoenix Ins. Co., 843 F.3d 37, 42 (1st Cir. 2016) (quoting Rivera-Díaz v. Humana Ins. of P.R., Inc., 748 F.3d 387, 388 (1st Cir. 2014)); and (4) the summary judgment order in an action that plaintiff brought in 2012 against DHMC, the Trustees, and several other defendants.

         Isaacs attended the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (“Keck” or “USC”) until, during his first year, “he was suspended and ultimately dismissed for harassing a classmate.” Isaacs v. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Med. Ctr., No. 12-CV-040-LM, 2014 WL 1572559, at *2 (D.N.H. Apr. 18, 2014). Dr. Isaacs then sued USC, and his suit resulted in two settlement agreements, one with USC's deans and one with USC itself.

         After he left USC, Isaacs attended the American University of the Caribbean, Netherlands Antilles, which awarded him an M.D. degree. Thereafter, he began a residency in general surgery at the University of Arizona (“UA”), but he resigned after approximately three weeks.

         Next, Dr. Isaacs applied for a residency at DHMC through the Electronic Residency Application Service (“ERAS”). “In [his ERAS] application, he omitted both his attendance at USC and his aborted residency at UA.” Isaacs, 2014 WL 1572559, at *2. Based upon his ERAS application, Dr. Isaacs was accepted into the DHMC residency program in psychiatry.

         Dr. Isaacs began his DHMC residency in June of 2011. He was dismissed in March of 2012. DHMS's letter of dismissal states, in pertinent part:

The decision to dismiss you from your position in the residency is based on academic deficiency issues as well as behavior incompatible with the role of a physician including the omission of material information from your Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) application, falsification of information provided to the New Hampshire Board of Medicine, and false reporting in a patient's electronic medical record as well as other substantiated competency and integrity concerns.
Specifically, your ERAS application lacked information regarding your prior residency training in Arizona as well as time served as a medical student at the University of Southern California. You also failed to divulge your dismissal from medical school at USC in information provided to the New Hampshire Board of Medicine in support of a NH training license.

Compl., Ex. K (doc. no. 3-11), at 1.

         Before he was dismissed from the DHMC residency program in 2012, Dr. Isaacs had filed suit against four defendants, including DHMC and the Trustees. After his dismissal, he amended his complaint to add defendants and causes of action.

         In his amended complaint, he asserted multiple causes of action, under state and federal statutes, including the ADA, and under the common law of New Hampshire. The defendants in Dr. Isaacs' 2012 action all prevailed at summary judgment.

         After DHMC dismissed Dr. Isaacs, it notified the Board of his dismissal, and further informed the Board that Dr. Isaacs had “allegedly omitted material facts from his Application for Training License for Residents and Graduate Fellows and the supplement filed along with the application.” Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. 1 (doc. no. 7-1), at 1. “As a result of [that] information, the Board commenced an investigation to determine whether [Dr. Isaacs] committed professional misconduct pursuant to RSA 329:17, VI and RSA 329:18.” Id.

         In October of 2013, the Board issued a Notice of Hearing, informing Dr. Isaacs that a hearing had been scheduled for February 5, 2014. On January 29, 2014, Dr. Isaacs notified the Board that he had filed suit against it in Pennsylvania, and asked the Board to postpone his hearing. He also asked to appear at his hearing telephonically, for medical reasons. The Board denied both requests. On the morning of the day of his hearing, which was scheduled for 1:00 p.m., Dr. Isaacs sent the Board an e-mail indicating that he would not be attending, due to inclement weather that would make it impossible for him to drive to New Hampshire from Pennsylvania. The hearing went on as scheduled, without Dr. Isaacs. “Attorney Jeff Cahill appeared as hearing counsel.” Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. 1 (doc. no. 7-1), at 4.

         About a month after the hearing, the Board issued a Final Decision and Order, which was signed by Penny Taylor, in her capacity as Administrator and Authorized Representative of the New Hampshire Board of Medicine. Taylor described the evidence before the Board as including the two e-mails in which Dr.

         Isaacs had requested continuances of the hearing, and she also characterized the three exhibits produced by hearing counsel:

Exhibit 1 is [Dr. Isaacs'] 2011 NH Application for Residency Training License; Exhibit 2 is an excerpt of a March 1, 2007 court order in Isaacs v. USC; and Exhibit 3 [is] the April 2008 Confidential Settlement in Isaacs v. USC. These exhibits along with notice of witnesses to be presented were provided to [Dr. Isaacs] on January 31, 2014.
Hearing counsel also presented the testimony of Dori Lefevbre, Board Investigator. Ms. Lefevbre testified that she was able to obtain the documents that were marked as exhibits 2 and 3 as public records available on-line from the federal court system.

Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. 1 (doc. no. 7-1), at 5. According to its order, the Board relied upon no exhibits other than Dr. Isaacs' two e-mails, his ERAS application, and the court order and settlement agreement that its investigator had obtained from the public record of Dr. Isaacs' case against USC.

         In its decision, the Board noted that DHMC's dismissal of Dr. Isaacs resulted in the cancellation of his medical license as a matter of law. But, it also went on to issue a reprimand, based upon its findings that when Dr. Isaacs applied for his license, he “knowingly made a false statement and further failed to disclose a material fact.” Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. 1 (doc. no. 7-1), at 8-9. Since the Board reprimanded him, Dr. Isaacs has applied to many residency programs, including the program at DHMC, but he has not received a single interview.[2]

         On February 3, 2017, two days before the third anniversary of his hearing before the Board, Dr. Isaacs filed the complaint that initiated this action. His case now consists of five claims against the Board and four claims against DHMC and the Trustees, which plaintiff lumps together as the “Dartmouth Defendants.”[3]

         III. ...

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