MEDICAL STAFF – DISCRIMINATION
Guinn v. Mount Carmel Health, No. 2:09-cv-226 (S.D. Ohio Feb. 27, 2012)
The United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio granted in part and denied in part two motions to dismiss a doctor’s antitrust, discrimination, defamation, and tortious interference with business relationships claims, which stemmed from the summary suspension of the doctor’s privileges.
The clinical department at the hospital summarily suspended the African-American physician’s privileges after another doctor reported that the physician had replaced an intracardial device in a patient whose previous device had broken and was infected. The physician alleged that this report was false; however, the hospital’s medical executive committee, ad hoc committee, and board of trustees upheld the decision.
In response, the physician brought several claims alleging that the hospital, physicians, and practice groups involved intentionally had driven him from competition for their financial gain and to discriminate against him on the basis of his race. The court dismissed some of these claims while allowing others to proceed.
First, the court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss on the physician’s federal and state antitrust claims for lack of standing, because the court found that the physician had failed to allege an antitrust injury, which is required to sue under both laws. Although the physician alleged that the quality of care, consumer choice, and cost were negatively impacted by the defendants’ acts, he did not plead facts to support his allegations. Ultimately, the court noted that the physician had failed to show an injury to competition, rather than merely an injury to himself as a competitor.
Second, the court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the physician’s discrimination claims. The defendants contended that he had failed to allege that similarly situated individuals not within his protected class were treated more favorably (one element of claims brought under 42 U.S.C. §1981 and the Ohio Civil Rights Act). However, the court found that the physician had sufficiently pled the element by alleging that while he was summarily suspended based on a “sham” peer review, white doctors with patient care issues were not subjected to peer review or not treated as harshly. In addition, the court found that the physician’s “sham” peer review allegation sufficiently pled a conspiracy to sustain his 42 U.S.C. §1985 claim. Thus, the court denied the motion to dismiss all of these claims.
Third, the court granted in part and denied in part the defendants’ motion to dismiss the defamation claims against them. It granted the motion as to the defendants who had relied on the allegedly false statements of others but who had not made any statements themselves, because a statement is a required element of a defamation claim. However, the court denied the motion with respect to the defendants who had allegedly made false statements about the physician.
Fourth, the court also denied the defendants’ motions to dismiss with respect to the physician’s tortious interference with business relationships claim, because the court found that his allegations that the defendants participated in a conspiracy to eliminate him as a competitor sufficiently stated a claim.