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Tucker v. Wyckoff Heights Medical Center

United States District Court, S.D. New York

September 30, 2014

KAREN TUCKER, Plaintiff,
v.
WYCKOFF HEIGHTS MEDICAL CENTER and RONALD GUBERMAN, Defendants

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Karen Tucker, Plaintiff, Pro se, Marlton, NJ.

For Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, Director Ronald Guberman, of Podiatry, Defendant: Ana Yaraida Correa, Kelley Drye & Warren LLP, New York, NY; Barbara E. Hoey, Littler Mendelson, P.C. (NYC), New York, NY; David I. Zalman Kelley Drye & Warren, LLP (NY), New York, NY.

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Memorandum Opinion and Order

LAURA TAYLOR SWAIN, United States District Judge.

Pro se plaintiff Karen Tucker (" Plaintiff" ) brings this action against Wyckoff Heights Medical Center (" Wyckoff" ), located in Brooklyn, NY, and Dr. Ronald Guberman (" Dr. Guberman," and together, " Defendants" ). Plaintiff asserts claims of breach of contract, Title VII retaliation, defamation, and tortious interference with prospective business relations.

On motion papers supplemented by a copy of a contract between Plaintiff and Wyckoff Hospital, Defendants have moved pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for an order dismissing the complaint. In accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(d) and Southern District of New York Local Civil Rule 56.2, Defendants served a written notice on Plaintiff explaining that the Court could treat the motion as one for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and that, in order to oppose such a motion, she was required to respond with evidence in the form of affidavits and/or documents. (Docket entry no. 16.) Plaintiff responded to the motion with, inter alia, a request to amend her complaint and for other relief, a one-page Affirmation in Opposition to Motion, a one-page Reply Affirmation in Support of Motion, a 40-page statement of facts and legal argument, the factual assertions in which the Court deems for purposes of this motion practice to have been proffered as sworn statements, and eleven attachments denominated as exhibits and comprising approximately 60 pages of additional material. (See docket entry nos. 30, 30-1, 30-2, 30-3, and 30-4.[1]) The Court treats Defendants'

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motion as one for summary judgment.

This Court has jurisdiction of this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The Court has considered parties' submissions carefully,[2] and, for the following reasons, Defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint is granted as discussed herein, and Plaintiff's request for leave to amend the complaint is denied as futile.

Background[3]

Plaintiff was a resident in Wyckoff's Podiatric Medicine and Surgery 12 Month Program (the " PM& S12 Program" ) from July 1, 1993 to June 30, 1994. (Docket entry no. 30-1, at 17.[4] Plaintiff was thereafter accepted into the Podiatric Medicine and Surgery 24 Month Program (the " PM& S24 Program" ) at Wyckoff, which required her to be in residence from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008. (Id. at 16.) Plaintiff worked in the program until March 2008. (Docket entry no. 17-2 at ¶ 5.)

On June 12, 2008, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the New York District Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the " EEOC" ), captioned Karen Tucker v. Wyckoff Heights Medical Center (EEOC Charge No. 520-2008-04231). (Docket entry no. 30, at 8.) In 2008, Plaintiff commenced an action captioned Karen Tucker v. Mary Immaculate Hospital, Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, Brooklyn Health Care Inc., Nirmal Matto, Fred Eisgrub, Charles Lombardi DPMI, Lida Faroqi DPMI, Anand Patel DPMI and Monique Rolle, DPM, No. 09 CV 10040, in this Court, and the Committee of Interns and Residents (the " CIR" ) commenced an arbitration proceeding on behalf of Plaintiff entitled Committee of Interns & Residents v. Wyckoff Heights Center (Termination of Karen Tucker), AAA Case No. 13 300 01338 08. (Id.; Agreement, at 1.)

On December 3, 2008, Plaintiff signed a Settlement Agreement and Release (the " Agreement" (Ex. B to Defendants' Notice of Motion, docket entry no. 17-2, and also attached to Plaintiff's Opposition, docket entry no. 30-1, at 19-27)) with Wyckoff and the CIR which purported to resolve all outstanding claims concerning Plaintiff's employment at, and termination from, Wyckoff, including all of Plaintiff's claims raised in the arbitration, the federal litigation, and the complaint filed with the EEOC. (Agreement, at ¶ 1.) Plaintiff and the CIR agreed to withdraw all of their previously filed claims. (Agreement, at ¶ 2.) Wyckoff agreed " that Plaintiff will be considered to have resigned from its Podiatry residency program effective March 31, 2008." (Agreement, at ¶ 4.) Wyckoff agreed that, if a third party inquired, Wyckoff's employees would state that Plaintiff had resigned for personal reasons. (Agreement, at ¶ 4.)

Plaintiff agreed to:

release[] and forever discharge Wyckoff . . . and . . . [its] parent institutions, subsidiaries, . . . affiliated institutions, predecessors and successors . . . as well as . . . their respective current or former . . .

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officers, . . . representatives or employees, including . . . Dr. Ronald Guberman . . . (collectively, 'Wyckoff Releasees'), from any and all complaints, claims, charges, demands, suits or actions, whether known or unknown, in law or in equity, which Tucker . . . now has or hereafter can, shall or may have against any of the Wyckoff Releasees, in their individual or representative capacity, arising out of her employment at Wyckoff, any event occurring during her employment, her termination, or any event occurring from the beginning of the world to the date of the Agreement.

(Agreement, at ¶ 8.)

Plaintiff agreed not to pursue any other charges, complaints, or claims of any nature against Wyckoff or any of the Wyckoff Releasees and, in particular, that she would not bring any civil or criminal claim against any of the Wyckoff Releasees in their individual or professional capacity. (Agreement, at ¶ 9.) Plaintiff also agreed that she would not seek employment or reemployment with Wyckoff or with any Wyckoff affiliate. (Agreement, at ¶ 16.)

The Agreement includes a choice of law clause and a forum selection clause reading as follows:

This Agreement shall be construed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of the State of New Jersey without regard to its conflict of laws provisions. The parties hereby agree to submit to the jurisdiction of the courts of the State of New Jersey and any actions relating to this Agreement must be instituted in the courts of the State of New Jersey.

(Agreement, at ¶ 22.)

The Agreement recites that it was a result of compromise and was entered into in good faith, and that it represents and contains the entire agreement and understanding with respect to the subject matter of the Agreement. (Agreement, at ¶ 18.) The Agreement includes Plaintiff's acknowledgment that she understood the terms and effect of the Agreement and signed it voluntarily, knowingly, and with advice of counsel. (Agreement, at ¶ 19.) The Agreement further provides that, " [i]n the event of any inquiry from a thirdparty regarding Plaintiff, Wyckoff agrees that, subject to its legal obligation, it will provide a document and certification attesting to the rotations and procedures which Plaintiff performed while she was working as a Podiatric Resident at Wyckoff from July 1993 to June 1994 and from July 2007 to March 2008." (Agreement, at ¶ 5.) The Agreement, which was signed by Plaintiff and by representatives of Wyckoff and the CIR, further provided that Dr. Guberman, who was the Director of the Podiatric Residency Program, would, for 12 months from the execution of the Agreement, " make a good faith effort to provide documentation that satisfie[d] the requirements of the programs to which [Plaintiff was] applying, subject to all legal obligations," and that Dr. Guberman would provide Plaintiff with a letter of reference in a form annexed to the Agreement, attesting to her medical competency. (Agreement, at ¶ ¶ 5-6.)

On April 9, 2009, Plaintiff requested that Dr. Guberman provide her with a letter of recommendation, verification of her rotation completion for the rotations she claims were completed between 1993 and 1994 and also between 2007 and 2008, verification of podiatric logs, and rotation evaluation signatures in his role as director of the PM& S24 Program. (Docket entry no. 30-3, at 27.) Plaintiff received the signed logs and evaluations for the rotations she completed between 2007 and 2008. (Docket entry nos. 30-3, at 28-42 and 30-4, at 1-4.)

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Plaintiff acknowledges in her opposition papers that her employment with Wyckoff terminated in March 2008.[5] (Docket entry no. 30-2, at 18.) Plaintiff, however, relies in her Complaint on certain letters, postdating the date the Agreement was executed, as proof that she is entitled to a certificate of completion of the PM& S24 Program. (See docket entry no. 2, at 3, 7-9.) The first is a letter by Dr. Guberman, dated April 24, 2009, attesting to Plaintiff's excellent grasp of hospital protocol and care of podiatric patients in inpatient and clinical settings. (Docket entry no. 2, at 9.[6]) Plaintiff also relies on two additional letters signed by Dr. Guberman, each dated July 1, 2009. The first July 1 letter states that Plaintiff was a resident in the PM& S12 Program from July 1, 1993 to June 30, 1994. (Docket entry no. 2, at 8.) The second July 1 letter states that she was a resident in the PM& S24 Program from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008. (Docket entry no. 2, at 7.) On the basis of the second letter's reference to a full one-year term of the PM& S24 Program, Plaintiff argues that " Dr. Gruberman made a wellinformed conscious decision to grant [Plaintiff] her completion of her PM& S24 residency training certificate for PM& S24." (Docket entry no. 30, at 10.) Plaintiff characterizes this second July 1, 2009 letter as a " letter of completion" from Dr. Guberman. Plaintiff asserts that this " letter of completion" entitles her to a certificate of completion of the PM& S24 Program. (Docket entry no. 30, at 17-18.) Plaintiff also alleges in her Complaint that Dr. Guberman " signed off on all her clinical, medical, surgical, and rotation evaluation logs as successfully completed." (Docket entry no. 2, at 3.) Plaintiff has not proffered any documentary evidence of such program completion. She attached to her opposition records, signed by Dr. Guberman, demonstrating that she completed certain rotations from July 2007 to March 2008. (Docket entry nos. 30-3, at 28-42; 30-4, at 1-4.) Moreover, the Agreement states explicitly that Plaintiff was part of the PM& S24 Program only from July 2007 to March 2008. (Agreement, at ¶ 5.)

Plaintiff further alleges that Wyckoff's refusal to issue a completion certificate or permit her to reenter and complete the Wyckoff residency program has prevented her from gaining employment and entering other programs. She alleges that, on March 31, 2011, she spoke with Dr. Falcone, a residency director at Interfaith Medical Center, regarding an open resident position for which she had applied. Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Falcone told her that Dr. Guberman stated that his reason for not allowing Plaintiff to return to WHMC or for not issuing her a certificate was because Plaintiff had sued him. Plaintiff alleges that she did not get the position with Interfaith. (Docket entry no. 30, at 28.)

Plaintiff proffers that, on June 18, 2012, she received an e-mail from Dr. Haber, who the Court assumes was a representative of a prospective employer, stating:

in order to complete your residency you have to follow the procedures as defined in the CPME documents, there is no program that can take a resident to finish a few months without ...

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