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Firooz N. Tabrizi, M.D v. Faxton--St. Luke's Healthcare

December 29, 2011

FIROOZ N. TABRIZI, M.D., PLAINTIFF,
v.
FAXTON--ST. LUKE'S HEALTHCARE; WALEED ALBERT, M.D.; FREDERICK GOLDBERG, M.D.; AND BEHROOZ EBRAHIMI FARD, M.D., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David N. Hurd United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM--DECISION and ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

On December 8, 2010, plaintiff Dr. Firooz N. Tabrizi ("plaintiff" or "Tabrizi") filed this action against defendants Faxton--St. Luke's Healthcare ("Faxton"), Dr. Waleed Albert ("Albert"), Dr. Frederick Goldberg ("Goldberg"), and Dr. Behrooz Ebrahimi Fard ("Fard") (collectively "defendants"). Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on March 25, 2011, and a second amended complaint on April 8, 2011, against the same four defendants. Dkt. Nos. 12, 14. Plaintiff brings a total of three causes of action: (1) violations of the Health Care Quality Improvement Act of 1986, 42 U.S.C. §§ 11101--11152, against all four defendants; (2) breach of contract against Faxton; and (3) intentional interference with contractual relationships against the three individually-named defendants.*fn1

On April 11, 2011, defendants filed a motion to dismiss the second amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Dkt. No. 15. Plaintiff opposes the motion. Dkt. Nos. 23, 24. On April 28, 2011, defendants filed a request to supplement their motion to dismiss. Dkt. No. 25. Oral argument was heard on May 13, 2011, in Utica, New York. Decision was reserved, and defendants were permitted to supplement their motion. Plaintiff responded in opposition to defendants' supplemental motion to dismiss, and defendants replied. Dkt. Nos. 29, 30.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Unless otherwise noted, the following pertinent facts are taken from the second amended complaint and are assumed true for purposes of this motion to dismiss. The individually-named defendants were all employees at Faxton's hospital in Utica, New York, at times relevant to this action. Albert and Goldberg were the President and Vice President, respectively, of the medical staff at Faxton. Fard and plaintiff were staff psychiatrists in the hospital's psychiatric unit.

In December 2005 a patient, "JY," arrived in Faxton's intensive care unit and came under Tabrizi's care. After approximately one week in the intensive care and psychiatric units, JY was discharged "against medical advice." Dkt. No. 14, ¶ 13. Soon thereafter, Goldberg was contacted by the medical director at Excellus Blue Cross--Blue Shield, who expressed concerns over plaintiff's treatment of JY. In turn, Goldberg asked Fard to review JY's records and determine whether the care plaintiff provided was appropriate. On January 13, 2006, Albert notified plaintiff by letter that his clinical privileges had been suspended due to concerns raised regarding his treatment of JY.

A meeting of the Medical Executive Committee ("the Committee") was held on January 16, 2006. Plaintiff attended this meeting but was not permitted to be present while a "peer reviewer"-apparently Fard-provided testimony. Id. ¶¶ 20--22. On January 19, 2006, Goldberg informed Tabrizi by letter that the Committee found sufficient evidence to continue his suspension until the next meeting. The Committee next met on January 23, 2006, but Tabrizi was not permitted to attend. On January 26, 2006, Albert advised plaintiff in writing that his suspension would continue unless he agreed to certain limitations on his clinical privileges. Tabrizi then requested a fair hearing on his suspension. The hearing was conducted by a three-member panel over several days in December 2006 and January 2007. The panel concluded that the care Tabrizi provided to JY did not meet the minimum standard of care expected of a reasonably prudent psychiatrist. Plaintiff's suspension was confirmed by resolution of Faxton's Board of Directors on March 1, 2007. Kenealy Affirmation, Ex. E, Dkt. No. 21-3, 35--36.*fn2

Tabrizi then filed a complaint with the New York Public Health Council pursuant to Public Health Law § 2801-b. The Public Health Council ultimately determined that the stated reasons for plaintiff's suspension were consistent with the Public Health Law. Plaintiff then initiated a proceeding pursuant to New York Public Health Law § 2801-c, seeking judicial review of the suspension. This action was dismissed in a bench decision by the Supreme Court, Oneida County, on September 30, 2008, and the dismissal was affirmed by the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, on October 2, 2009. Tabrizi v. Faxton--St. Luke's Health Care, 66 A.D.3d 1421, 1421--22 (N.Y. App. Div. 4th Dep't 2009). On January 19, 2010, leave to appeal was denied by the New York Court of Appeals. Tabrizi v. Faxton--St. Luke's Health Care, 13 N.Y.3d 717 (N.Y. 2010).

III. DISCUSSION

In their supplemented motion to dismiss, defendants argue that: (1) plaintiff's first cause of action must be dismissed because the Health Care Quality Improvement Act of 1986 does not provide a private right of action; (2) plaintiff's third cause of action is barred by the statute of limitations; and (3) the second amended complaint must be dismissed in its entirety pursuant to the doctrines of res judicata and/or collateral estoppel.

A. Motion to Dismiss Standard

To survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007). Although a complaint need only contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing the pleader is entitled to relief" (Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)), more than mere conclusions are required. Indeed, "[w]hile legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, __, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009).

Dismissal is appropriate only where plaintiff has failed to provide some basis for the allegations that support the elements of his claims. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S. Ct. at 1974 (requiring "only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face"). When considering a motion to dismiss, the complaint is to be construed liberally, and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the plaintiff's favor. Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 152 (2d Cir. 2002). Where, as here, the parties attach pleadings from prior lawsuits to the motion to dismiss, a court may consider such documents without converting the motion to one for summary judgment. See Rothman v. Gregor, 220 F.3d 81, 92 (2d Cir. 2000) (taking judicial notice of a complaint attached ...


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