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GARG v. ALBERT EINSTEIN COLLEGE OF MEDICINE

September 20, 1990

AJAY P. GARG, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE ALBERT EINSTEIN COLLEGE OF MEDICINE OF YESHIVA UNIVERSITY, NELLA I. SHAPIRO, M.D., JEAN L. COOK, M.D. AND DEAN DOMINICK P. PURPURA, M.D., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sprizzo, District Judge:

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Ajay P. Garg brings this action pursuant to the federal civil rights laws, 42 U.S.C. § 1981-1983 (1982) and the Fourth [sic] and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. See Complaint at ¶ First. In this action plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment that defendants violated "plaintiff's rights to equal educational opportunity and otherwise unconstitutionally effected [sic] his status as a citizen of the United States," see id. at ¶ Second, and restitution of the rights, benefits and privileges of a graduate of the defendant Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University ("AECOM"), which he would have been but for the defendants' alleged discriminatory practices. See id. at ¶ Third. The defendants collectively move to dismiss the action pursuant to Fed.R. Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) on the grounds that the action is barred by res judicata and by the Statute of Limitations, as well as for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted on res judicata grounds and the action is dismissed.*fn1

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, a black male of East Indian descent, was a student at AECOM from approximately August 1981 until he was suspended in 1985. See Complaint at ¶¶ Fourth & Seventeenth. The incidents complained of arise out of a series of disputes between plaintiff, AECOM and defendants Dominick P. Purpura, M.D., Dean of AECOM, Nella I. Shapiro, M.D., an Assistant Professor of Surgery at AECOM, and Jean L. Cook, M.D., Associate Dean for Students at AECOM.*fn2

In the Spring of 1982 plaintiff missed two final examinations and subsequently in the Spring of 1983, failed to complete three papers required for a psychiatry clerkship. See Complaint at ¶ Sixteenth; Affidavit of Martin H. Bockstein at ¶ 10 (sworn to March 2, 1987) ("1987 Bockstein Aff.") (annexed to Affidavit of Martin H. Bockstein as part of Ex. C (sworn to Aug. 1, 1989) ("Bockstein Aff.")). As a consequence, plaintiff was initially given a grade of deferred, which was ultimately converted to a failing grade and plaintiff was therefore advised that he would have to repeat the clerkship. See 1987 Bockstein Aff. at ¶ 10(b). However, instead of enrolling in the psychiatry clerkship, plaintiff enrolled in a cardiology preceptorship. See id. at ¶ 10(d); Plaintiff's Exhibits in Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss ("P.Ex.") at 29-38.

Plaintiff was thereafter summoned to a meeting of the Committee on Student Promotions ("the Committee") on March 4, 1985, at which he failed to appear, claiming that he had car trouble and could not return to New York from Albany in time for the meeting. Plaintiff was therefore suspended from AECOM. Dr. Cook then wrote a letter to all of the universities to which plaintiff had applied for a position in their residency program stating that plaintiff would not graduate before July 1, 1985. The letter also stated: "In brief, it is Mr. Garg's sense of responsibility which is of concern." See Letter of Jean L. Cook, M.D., to Program Directors of Residency Programs (March 5, 1985) (annexed to Bockstein Aff. as part of Ex. C).

At subsequent meetings in March and April of 1985, the Committee decided to allow plaintiff to complete his degree requirements. However, the Committee also decided that he would have to comply with all of the curriculum requirements, including the requirement that he repeat the psychiatry clerkship. See Affidavit of Jean L. Cook, M.D., at ¶ 12 (sworn to February 25, 1987) ("Cook Aff.") (annexed to Bockstein Aff. as part of Ex. C). Plaintiff was also directed to complete a subinternship in medicine or pediatrics and an elective. See id.

Plaintiff enrolled in a subinternship in chest medicine at Van Etten Hospital from August to October 1985. However, plaintiff received a failing grade in that subinternship. See id. at ¶ 13; P.Ex. at 83-93. Subsequent to that failure, plaintiff was allowed to enroll in another internship at a different hospital which was not informed of his prior difficulties. See Cook Aff. at ¶ 13; P.Ex. at 94. Unfortunately, plaintiff failed this internship also. See Cook Aff. at ¶ 14.

Finally, the Committee met on February 10, 1986 and unanimously recommended to Purpura that plaintiff be withdrawn from AECOM. See 1987 Bockstein Aff. at ¶ 12; Cook Aff. at ¶ 15. However, the Committee met again in April of 1986 to reconsider that decision in light of plaintiff's contention that a medical condition was the source of his difficulties. After that meeting, the Committee voted to adhere to its earlier decision. See 1987 Bockstein Aff. at ¶ 13. Purpura notified plaintiff that his status as a student at AECOM was terminated as of May 15, 1986.

The State Court Action

After his dismissal from AECOM, on February 6, 1987 plaintiff brought an action against AECOM, Purpura, Cook, Shapiro, and David M. Milstein, M.D., an associate professor at AECOM, in New York State Court. His complaint, which set forth eleven causes of action and 104 factual allegations, alleged that it was brought to remedy acts of unlawful discrimination pursuant to N.Y.Exec.Law §§ 296(4) and 297(9) (McKinney 1982),*fn3 to recover damages for personal injuries caused by defendants discriminatory conduct, to recover damages for breach of contract and tortious interference with contractual relations, and for injunctive relief. Specifically, the complaint alleged that plaintiff suffered from a temporal lobe epilepsy that impaired his performance as a medical student, see Plaintiff's Verified Complaint in Garg v. Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, Index No. 7406/87, at ¶¶ 9-16, 45, 82-88 (Sup.Ct. Bronx Co. Feb. 6, 1987) ("State Complaint") (annexed to the Bockstein Aff. as Ex. B), and that the defendants' failure to grant him a medical leave of absence in light of his medical problem and their subsequent action in terminating him from AECOM constituted both unlawful discrimination based upon a medical disability and racial and ethnic discrimination because such leaves were routinely granted to white and Jewish students. See id. at ¶¶ 28-30.

Additionally, plaintiff alleged that all defendants breached various expressed and implied obligations owed to AECOM students regarding discrimination, treatment of academic deficiencies, leaves of absence, suspension, withdrawal, assistance to students who encounter difficulties with their studies, and permission for students to review their records. See id. at ¶¶ 55-69. Plaintiff claimed that defendants' breaches of these agreements constituted racial and ethnic discrimination because they discharged these obligations with respect to white and Jewish students. See id. at ¶¶ 72-73, 77-78.*fn4

Plaintiff sought reinstatement at AECOM, deletion of adverse materials from his files, an injunction against further false and damaging communications to individuals or institutions regarding plaintiff's academic status, compensatory damages of $540,000, and if plaintiff was not reinstated, an additional $2,115,500 for punitive damages, money ...


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