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Obi v. Exeter Health Resources, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

October 2, 2018

Loretta Azuka Obi
v.
Exeter Health Resources, Inc.; Core Physicians LLC; and Barton Assocs., Inc.

          Loretta Azuka Obi, pro se

          SUPERSEDING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          ANDREA K. JOHNSTONE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the court is plaintiff Dr. Loretta Azuka Obi's original complaint (Doc. No. 2) and complaint addendum entitled, “Motion for Hearing” (Doc. No. 9). The matter came before the court for preliminary review, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and LR 4.3(d)(2), after which the court issued a Report and Recommendation (Doc. No. 7) on September 18, 2018 (“September 18 R&R”).

         The September 18 R&R appears to have crossed in the mail with the plaintiff's complaint addendum (Doc. No. 9). Accordingly, the court now conducts a further preliminary review of the claims asserted in both the original complaint and complaint addendum (Doc. Nos. 2, 9), and issues this Superseding Report and Recommendation (“Superseding R&R”), which replaces the September 18 R&R for all purposes, including the identification of plaintiff's claims.

         Standard

         The court may dismiss claims asserted in a complaint filed in forma pauperis, if the court lacks jurisdiction, a defendant is immune from the relief sought, the complaint fails to state a claim, or the action is frivolous or malicious. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); LR 4.3(d)(2). In determining whether a pro se complaint states a claim, the court must construe the complaint liberally. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam). To survive preliminary review, the complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief.'” See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted). The court treats as true all well-pleaded factual allegations, and construes reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor. See Ocasio-Hernández v. Fortuño-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011).

         Background

         Dr. Obi was a contract physician, assigned to work as a hospitalist at Exeter Hospital pursuant to contracts executed between her and the defendants named in this action: Exeter Health Resources, Inc. (“Exeter Health Resources”); Core Physicians LLC (“Core Physicians”); and Barton Associates, Inc. (“Barton”). Dr. Obi alleges that she provided services at Exeter Hospital beginning on December 22, 2017, under a contract that called for her to provide services through February 25, 2018. “Placement Orders, ” attached to the original complaint, bearing Dr. Obi's signature and a signature for Barton, assign Dr. Obi to work for Core Physicians at Exeter Hospital. An October 30, 2017 Placement Order (Doc. No. 2, at 13), covers the period from January 8, 2018 through February 25, 2018; and a December 27, 2017 Placement Order marked as “Schedule G” (Doc. No. 2, at 16) (“Schedule G Placement Order”), assigns Dr. Obi to work at Exeter Hospital from December 22, 2017 through January 1, 2018. The original complaint (Doc. No. 2) asserts that Dr. Obi's signature on the Schedule G Placement Order was forged.

         Dr. Obi asserts that she received a phone call on January 3, 2018, terminating her contract to work at Exeter Hospital, based on what Dr. Obi characterizes as false staff reports and “coerced” patient complaints. Exhibits to the complaint indicate that concerns raised by Exeter Hospital staff and patients, relating to Dr. Obi's behavior, patient care, and medical record documentation practices, became the subject of an internal investigation beginning in January 2018. Exeter Hospital summarily withdrew Dr. Obi's clinical privileges at that time, and then reported its withdrawal of Dr. Obi's privileges to the National Practitioner Data Bank.[1] Dr. Obi asserts that her inclusion in the National Practitioner Data Bank was automatically published to all of her employers within the last three years and triggered a further inquiry by the New Hampshire Board of Medicine. Dr. Obi asserts that the true motive for withdrawing her privileges was to defame her, through the National Practitioner Data Bank report, because she had refused to participate in improper billing practices and unsafe medical practices at Exeter Hospital.

         A letter from Dan Doran, Core Physicians Senior Human Resources Partner, to Caley Thompson, Barton Associates Group Manager, dated January 26, 2018 (Doc. No. 2, at 18) reports that because Exeter Hospital had suspended Dr. Obi's clinical privileges, Dr. Obi was unable to fulfill the terms of her assignment at Exeter Hospital. Doran's letter further reports that Core Physicians was cancelling Dr. Obi's placement due to “provider breach, ” and that Core did not intend to assign her to work again with Core Physicians or at Exeter Hospital.

         Dr. Obi asserts that she has been unable to secure employment as a doctor since January 2018. An email to Dr. Obi from a third party, Weatherby Healthcare, dated February 21, 2018 (Doc. No. 2, at 19), asked Dr. Obi to provide full documentation regarding Exeter Hospital's suspension of her clinical privileges. Other documents in the record indicate that Dr. Obi has fallen behind in paying her bills.

         Claims

         In Document Nos. 2 and 9, Dr. Obi asserts the following claims:

         1. Defendants, Exeter Health Resources, Core Physicians, and Barton, breached their contractual obligations to Dr. Obi by:

a. Failing to conduct an adequate orientation of Dr. Obi with regard to her placement as a hospitalist at Exeter Hospital;
b. Failing to provide Dr. Obi with timely access to information, material, and login access she needed to perform ...

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