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Barbara E. Salamon, M.D v. Our Lady of Victory Hospital

June 23, 2012

BARBARA E. SALAMON, M.D., PLAINTIFF,
v.
OUR LADY OF VICTORY HOSPITAL, MICHAEL C. MOORE, M.D., FRANKLIN ZEPLOWITZ, M.D., JOHN F. REILLY, M.D., ALBERT J. DIAZ-ORDAZ, M.D., AND JOHN P. DAVANZO, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny Chief Judge United States District Court

DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Pending before this Court are Defendants' motions for reconsideration (Docket Nos. 169, 175, 176) of this Court's March 30, 2012 Decision and Order denying Defendants' motions for summary judgment (Docket No. 168). Plaintiff has filed a response to Defendants' motions, and Defendants have filed reply papers. (Docket Nos. 179-187.)

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, a female gastroenterologist, commenced this action against Defendants Our Lady of Victory Hospital ("OLV") and physicians/administrators on January 21, 1999, and filed an amended complaint on March 5, 1999. (Docket Nos. 1, 5.) The amended complaint asserted eight causes of action. The first five alleged violations of antitrust law. The sixth and seventh causes of action alleged sexual harassment and a discriminatory OLV peer review process that resulted in a "reeducation" and mentoring requirement in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), and New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. L. § 290 et. seq. ("NYSHRL"). The eighth cause of action asserted state law claims for tortious interference with contract and prospective business relations.

Plaintiff's first five claims were dismissed by the late Judge John T. Elfvin pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) by Order dated October 5, 1999. (Docket No. 20.)

Subsequently, on March 8, 2006, Judge Elfvin granted summary judgment to OLV on Plaintiff's Title VII and NYSHRL claims for lack of the required employee-employer relationship, and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over her remaining state law claims. (Docket No. 127.)

In an amended decision, a panel of the Second Circuit vacated the entry of summary judgment and remanded the case for further consideration of Defendants' motions. (Docket No. 162.) Specifically, the Second Circuit found that "viewing the circumstances of this particular case in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the non-moving party, [Plaintiff] has demonstrated a genuine factual conflict regarding the degree of control OLV exercised over her," and instructed that, on remand, the district court was to reweigh all of the thirteen factors set forth in Community for Creative Non-Violence v. Reid, 490 U.S. 730 (1989) to determine whether Plaintiff was an employee of the OLV for purposes of Title VII. Salamon v. Our Lady of Victory Hosp., 514 F.3d 217, 231 (2d Cir. 2008).

On remand, Defendants renewed their motions for summary judgment. On March 30, 2012, this Court denied summary judgment to Defendants on the ground that a question of fact existed as to whether Plaintiff was an employee of OLV, and set forth the following issues to be resolved at trial: (1) whether Plaintiff was an employee of OLV for purposes of Title VII, and, if so, (2) whether Plaintiff was discriminated against and/or harassed by Defendants in violation of Title VII and NYSHRL; and (3) whether Defendants tortiously interfered with her prospective business relations. (Docket No. 168.)

Defendants now ask the Court to reconsider its previous Decision and Order. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motions to reconsider are denied.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard for Reconsideration

While the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not specifically provide for reconsideration, see Hamilton Plaintiffs v. Williams Plaintiffs, 147 F.3d 367, 371 n.10 (5th Cir. 1998), a party may move to amend or correct a judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e) or for relief from a judgment or order pursuant to Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Rule 59(e) permits a party seeking to alter or amend a judgment to file a motion "no later than 28 days after the entry of judgment." Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e). If the Rule 59(e) motion is not timely filed then the motion to reconsider will be treated as a Rule 60(b) motion, which specifies that a court may relieve parties from final judgments, orders, or proceedings for, inter alia, mistake, inadvertence, surprise, excusable neglect, newly discovered evidence, fraud, or "any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment." Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b). A motion for reconsideration under Rule 60(b) "[is] generally granted only upon the showing of exceptional circumstances." Mendell v. Gollust, 909 F.2d 724, 731 (2d Cir. 1990), aff'd, 501 U.S. 115 (1991); Nemaizer v. Baker, 793 F.2d 58, 61--62 (2d Cir. 1986).

Under both Rules 59(e) and 60(b), the decision to grant or deny a motion for reconsideration is within "the 'sound discretion of a district court judge.'" See Darcelin v. N.Y., No. 09--CV--5611, 2010 WL 723455, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 26, 2010); Chamberlin v. Principi, No. 02 Civ. 8357, 2006 WL 647785, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Mar.15, 2006), aff'd, 247 Fed. Appx. 251 (2d Cir. 2007) (quoting McCarthy v. Manson, 714 F.2d 234, 237 (2d Cir. 1983)). "The standard for granting [a motion for reconsideration] is strict, and reconsideration will generally be denied unless the moving party can point to controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked--matters, in other words, that might reasonably be expected to alter the conclusion reached by the court." Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995). Reconsideration is not a proper tool to repackage and relitigate arguments and issues already considered by the court in deciding the original motion. Id.; U.S. v. Gross, No. 98-CR-0159, 2002 WL 32096592, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 5, 2002). Nor is it proper to raise new arguments and issues. Gross, 2002 WL 32096592 at *4. Still, "reconsideration may be granted to correct a clear error, or prevent manifest injustice.'" Chamberlin, 2006 WL 647785 at * 1 (citing Virgin Atl. Airways, Ltd. v. Nat'l Mediation Bd., 956 F.2d 1245, 1255 (2d Cir. 1992)).

This Court has reviewed the parties' submissions and agrees with Plaintiff that Defendants have not established any of the recognized grounds to warrant reconsideration. To the extent that Defendants allege that this Court did not consider certain arguments for summary judgment, the Court will explain its rejection of those arguments below.

B. The Alternative Grounds for Summary Judgment

1. Primary Jurisdiction

Defendants have argued that Plaintiff's suit is barred under New York Public Health Law § 2801-b because she did not first file a claim with the New York Public Health Council ("PHC"). (Docket No. 139 at 63-70.)

New York Public Health Law § 2801-b prohibits improper practices in hospital staff appointments and extension of privileges, and provides that an aggrieved physician may file a complaint with the PHC, which then investigates the complaint and determines whether there is a legitimate medical justification for revocation of a physician's privileges. N.Y. Pub. Health L. § 2801-b(1)-(3).

Defendants rely on Johnson v. Nyack Hosp., 964 F.2d 116 (2d Cir. 1992), for the proposition that a federal district court must refrain from hearing a damages claim by a physician where the legitimacy of the termination of the physician's privileges is dispositive, and the claim has not first been filed before the PHC. Johnson, 964 F.2d at 121; see also id. at 122-123 ("Primary jurisdiction allows an agency to pass on factual issues that require specialized, technical knowledge. Either a federal or state agency may have the requisite competence to serve this purpose."). However, as at least one district court in this Circuit has observed, "the PHC may only examine a very narrow range of issues, none of which involve the adjudication of constitutional rights." Franzon v. Massena Mem. Hosp., 977 F. Supp. 160, 166 (N.D.N.Y. 1997) (citing N.Y. Pub. Health L. § 2801--b(2)).

In Hamad v. Nassau County Medical Center, 191 F. Supp. 2d 286 (E.D.N.Y. 2000), the district court held that the doctrine of primary jurisdiction did not preclude the plaintiff-physician's constitutional claims arising ...


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