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Batlle v. Associates for Women's Medicine

September 19, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chin, D.J.


Pro se plaintiff José Batlle, M.D., brings this cause of action under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), 18 U.S.C. §§ 1962(c) and (d). Defendants move to dismiss, arguing that plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and that his claims are barred under the doctrine of res judicata. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.


A. Facts*fn1

1. Plaintiff's Relationship With AWM

On August 3, 2001, plaintiff José Batlle, M.D., executed a Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU") with the Associates for Women's Medicine, PLLC ("AWM"). (Compl. ¶ 17). Under the terms of the MOU, plaintiff was to establish an independent primary care division within AWM. (Id. Ex. A).

On August 16th, plaintiff met with representatives from AWM and Keybank National Association ("Keybank") to open a line of credit with Keybank for $100,000. (Id. ¶ 20). Present at that meeting were Margaret Dalton, an administrator at AWM, James Brown, M.D., the President/Chairman of AWM, and Dona Vavonese, Vice President of Keybank. (Id.). The promissory note executed by the parties listed AWM as the borrower, and plaintiff -- in his individual capacity -- as the guarantor. (Id. Ex. B). After the documents were signed, Dr. Brown informed plaintiff that the MOU should be disregarded, as plaintiff was now a "member" of AWM. (Id. ¶ 20). AWM's attorneys were to provide plaintiff with final drafts of a new operating agreement reflecting a change in the status of their relationship. (Id.). The $100,000 was transferred to AWM's accounts by Dr. Brown in December 2001. (Id. ¶ 22).

Plaintiff continued to work as an independent primary care physician for AWM until July 2002, when AWM decided to terminate its relationship with plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 27). This occurred shortly after plaintiff returned from surgery on his right hand. (Id.). In August 2002, plaintiff was forwarded an MOU that was signed and dated August 20, 2001. (Id. ¶ 31). This differed from the original MOU, which was signed and dated August 3, 2001 by plaintiff. (Id.).*fn2 Plaintiff was told that there was no operating agreement reflecting plaintiff's status as a member of AWM. (Id.).

2. Plaintiff's Disputes With AWM

In August 2002, Marco Compagni, an attorney for AWM, sent a letter to plaintiff's attorney, informing her that plaintiff was required to finalize certain paperwork to complete his professional obligations to his patients. (Id. ¶ 30, Ex. G). The letter also stated that the Scolaro Law Firm had possession of some of plaintiff's office equipment, and would be willing to make arrangements to forward those items to plaintiff -- after certain issues were first resolved. (Id. Ex. G). These issues included plaintiff's professional obligations to his patients, as well as his obligation to assume his "Division Debt as provided for in his original Memorandum of Understanding." (Id.).

Around this time, plaintiff also received a call from Dona Vavonese, informing him that AWM was not paying back the $100,000 line of credit, and that he was responsible for it as the guarantor. (Id. ¶ 32). Plaintiff received another letter from Ms. Vavonese in December 2002, advising him that he owed Keybank $100,000 plus accrued interest, and that this loan was delinquent. (Id. Ex. H).

3. Arbitration Proceedings

Unable to resolve their disputes, AWM commenced arbitration proceedings against plaintiff in April 2003 pursuant to the MOU. (Id. ¶ 35). In August 2003, AWM obtained an arbitration award of $105,477.52 against plaintiff. (Id. Ex. I at 2). Plaintiff was not present at the proceedings. (Id. ¶ 36). Justice Thomas Murphy of the New York Supreme Court, County of Onondaga, denied confirmation of the arbitration award in October 2003 because plaintiff was unable to retain new counsel for the hearing after his initial counsel had withdrawn. (Id. ¶ 37, Ex. I at 2). He also directed that a new hearing be held before a new arbitrator. (Id. Ex. I at 4).

Accordingly, in February 2004, AWM obtained a court order mandating arbitration. (Id. ¶ 40). Plaintiff argued, inter alia, that there was an attorney conflict of interest, that AWM refused to produce documents he needed, and that the MOU was fraudulent. (Id.). Notwithstanding these objections, the judge compelled arbitration (id.), and the proceeding was conducted on October 15, 2004 (id. ¶ 41). The arbitrator also found that the MOU was not fraudulent (id.), and on March 17, 2005, awarded AWM $119,151.74 (Hyland Decl. Ex. B). The arbitrator's written decision rejected, among other things, plaintiff's claims that:

(1) he was a member of AWM (id. Ex. B at 5-6); (2) he was not obligated to repay the Keybank loan (id. Ex. B at 9); and (3) AWM prevented him from working by withholding his office supplies, equipment, and medical charts (id. Ex. B at 6-7). The second arbitration award was confirmed by Justice Murphy on June 15, 2005. (Hyland Decl. Ex. C).

B. Current Action

Plaintiff commenced this RICO action in September 2005, alleging, inter alia, that defendants engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity that included acts of fraud and extortion. The heart of plaintiff's allegations can be summarized as follows: First, he asserts that the MOU is fraudulent, and that it does not govern his relationship with AWM because he is actually a member of AWM. (Compl. ¶ 43). Therefore, the arbitration was invalid. (Id. ¶¶ 44, 57). Second, he asserts that the $100,000 loan from Keybank belongs to AWM, and that AWM and Keybank are engaged in a fraudulent scheme to extort payment from him for that loan. (Id. ...

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