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Mahmud v. Kaufmann

June 27, 2007

SAEEDA A. MAHMUD, M.D., ECF CASE PLAINTIFF,
v.
WALTER KAUFMANN, M.D., JEFF AUERBACH, M.D., JANE BROOKS, M.D., GOPAL SHAH, M.D. AND DAVID BRODY, M.D., INDIVIDUALLY, JOINTLY AND SEVERALLY, DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Saeeda A. Mahmud, M.D., a native of Pakistan, brought this action against defendants Walter Kaufmann, M.D., Jeff Auerbach, M.D., Jane Brooks, M.D., Gopal Shah, M.D. and David Brody, M.D., (collectively, "defendants") arising from the denial of her medical staff privileges at Bon Secours Community Hospital (the "Hospital")*fn1 and Orange Regional Medical Center ("ORMC").*fn2 Plaintiff alleges that defendants failed to renew her contract of affiliation with the Hospital and subsequently thwarted her efforts to contract with ORMC for admitting privileges, both on the basis of her race and in a concerted effort to limit competition in the market for certain specialized medical services in the area of Port Jervis, New York. Plaintiff brought claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981, the New York Human Rights Law, New York Executive Law §§ 290, et seq. (the "NYSHRL"), the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1, et seq., and New York General Business Law § 340 ("NYGBL"), as well as common law claims for interference with prospective economic advantage and prima facie tort.

Defendants moved to dismiss plaintiff's ten-count Complaint in its entirety pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In an Opinion and Order dated September 27, 2006, this Court dismissed plaintiff's third cause of action under the NYSHRL and her eighth and tenth causes of action for prima facie tort. Remaining are plaintiff's claims that defendants: (1) caused the Hospital to elect not to renew her contract of affiliation with it on the account of her race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981; (2) prevented her from subsequently contracting with ORMC on the basis of her race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and the NYSHRL; (3) unlawfully interfered with plaintiff's prospective business economic advantage; and (4) conspired to restrict plaintiff and other physicians from competing in the market for certain specialized medical services in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Actand NYGBL. Defendants now move for reconsideration of our prior Opinion and Order. For the following reasons, defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

The facts relevant to this lawsuit are set forth in detail in our prior Opinion and Order, familiarity with which is presumed. In brief, plaintiff alleges that defendants caused the Hospital to elect not to renew her contract of affiliation with the Hospital, subsequently interfered with her efforts to gain admitting privileges at ORMC and continually discredited plaintiff, including informing her patients that she was incompetent. Plaintiff alleges that defendants' actions were motivated by their racial animus towards her and their desire to limit competition with their medical practices in the Port Jervis area. Defendants now seek reconsideration of our prior Opinion and Order denying defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's: (1) first cause of action alleging that defendants caused the Hospital not to renew her contract of affiliation on the basis of her race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981; (2) second and third causes of action alleging that defendants thwarted her efforts to gain admitting privileges at ORMC on the basis of her race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981and the NYSHRL; and (3) sixth and seventh causes of action pursuant to the Sherman Antitrust Act and the NYGBL.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard

A motion for reconsideration is governed by Local Rule 6.3*fn3 and should be granted only when the moving party demonstrates that the court overlooked "controlling decisions or factual matters that were put before it on the underlying motion . . . and which, had they been considered, might have reasonably altered the result before the court." In re Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether Prods. Liab. Litig., No. 00 Civ. 1898, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13886, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 7, 2001) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). The decision of whether to grant or deny a motion for reconsideration lies within "the sound discretion of a district court judge." Bennett v. Watson Wyatt & Co., 156 F. Supp. 2d 270, 271-72 (S.D.N.Y. 2001) (quoting McCarthy v. Manson, 714 F.2d 234, 237 (2d Cir. 1983)). The Second Circuit has stated that "[t]he standard for granting [a motion for reconsideration] is strict, and reconsideration will generally be denied . . . ." Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995); see also In re Health Mgmt. Sys., Inc. Sec. Litig., 113 F. Supp. 2d 613, 614 (S.D.N.Y. 2000) ("'reconsideration of a previous order is an extraordinary remedy to be employed sparingly in the interests of finality and conservation of scarce judicial resources.'") (internal citation omitted). Accordingly, in the district courts, "[r]econsideration is . . . narrowly construed and strictly applied so as to avoid repetitive arguments." Ursa Minor Ltd. v. Aon Fin. Prods., Inc., No. 00 Civ. 2474, 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12968, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 8, 2000) (internal quotation marks omitted). However, a court may grant a motion for reconsideration "to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice." Virgin Atl. Airways, Ltd. v. Nat'l Mediation Bd., 956 F.2d 1245, 1255 (2d Cir. 1992) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Seippel v. Jenkens & Gilchrist, P.C., No. 03 Civ. 6942, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21589, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 26, 2004); U.S. Titan, Inc. v. Guangzhou Zhen Hua Shipping Co., 182 F.R.D. 97, 100 (S.D.N.Y. 1998) (Conner, J.), aff'd, 241 F.3d 135 (2d Cir. 2001) ("Local Civil Rule 6.3 provides the Court with an opportunity to correct manifest errors of law or fact, hear newly discovered evidence, consider a change in the applicable law or prevent manifest injustice.").

II. Reconsideration of this Court's Denial of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Cause of Action Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981 As Time Barred

Defendants first request that this Court reconsider whether plaintiff's first cause of action, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981, is barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Specifically, plaintiff's first cause of action alleges that defendants caused the Hospital to elect not to renew her contract of affiliation with it on the account of her race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. In our prior Opinion and Order, we held that the applicable statute of limitations was four years. See 28 U.S.C. § 1658(a) ("Except as otherwise provided by law, a civil action arising under an Act of Congress enacted after the date of the enactment of this section may not be commenced later than 4 years after the cause of action accrues."). We concluded that, because plaintiff's first cause of action under § 1981 arises from incidents that occurred from approximately 1996 through May 2002 and her action was filed on September 19, 2005, plaintiff's claim was timely under the four-year period of limitations. On their motion for reconsideration, however, defendants contend that plaintiff's § 1981 claim is time barred as a three-year statute of limitations applies to it, citing Jones v. Railroad Donnelly and Sons Company, 541 U.S. 369, 382 (2004). We agree.

In Jones, the Supreme Court held that the four-year statute of limitations found in 28 U.S.C. § 1658(a) does not apply to claims arising under the pre-1991 42 U.S.C. § 1981.*fn4 See 541 U.S. at 382-83. The Supreme Court explained:

Concerns about settled expectations provide a valid reason to reject an interpretation of § 1658 under which any new amendment to federal law would suffice to trigger the 4-year statute of limitations, regardless of whether the plaintiff's claim would have been available -- and subject to a state statute of limitations -- prior to December 1, 1990. Such concerns do not, however, carry any weight against the reading of § 1658 . . . under which the catchall limitations period applies only to causes of action that were not available until after § 1658 was enacted. If a cause of action did not exist prior to 1990, potential litigants could not have formed settled expectations as to the relevant statute of limitations that would then be disrupted by application of § 1658. We conclude that a cause of action "aris[es] under an Act of Congress enacted" after December 1, 1990 -- and therefore is governed by § 1658's 4-year statute of limitations -- if the plaintiff's claim against the defendant was made possible by a post-1990 enactment.

Id. at 381-82 (emphasis in original). In Jones, the plaintiffs brought claims for hostile working environment, wrongful termination and failure to transfer, all pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981. The Supreme Court concluded that the plaintiffs' claims were not viable under § 1981 prior to its amendment in November 1991, but that the 1991 amendments to § 1981 enlarged the scope of liability under the statute to include their claims. See id. at 383. The Court held that "[b]ecause [plaintiffs'] hostile work environment, wrongful termination, and failure to transfer claims did not allege a violation of the pre-1990 version of § 1981 but did allege violations of the amended statute, those claims 'ar[ose] under' the amendment to § 1981 contained in the 1991 Act." Id. Accordingly, the Supreme Court applied the four-year statute of limitations of § 1658 to the plaintiffs' claims. See id.

In determining whether § 1658 applies, courts must decide whether the plaintiff's "claim[s] ar[ise] under the amended or unamended version of" § 1981. See id. at 372, 383. "As first enacted, § 1981 provided in relevant part that 'all persons [within the jurisdiction of the United States] shall have the same right, in every State and Territory . . . to make and enforce contracts . . . as is enjoyed by white citizens.'" Id. (quoting 14 Stat. 27); see also PUB. L. 102-166, § 1745. "The most obvious feature of the provision is the restriction of its scope to forbidding discrimination in the 'mak[ing] and enforce[ment]' of contracts alone." Patterson v. McLean Credit Union, 491 U.S. 164, 176 (1989) (alterations in original). The Supreme Court has held that the unamended version of ยง 1981 provides no relief "[w]here an alleged act of discrimination does not involve the impairment of one of these specific ...


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