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Ahluwalia v. St. George's Univ., LLC

United States District Court, E.D. New York

November 25, 2014

NITESH AHLUWALIA, Plaintiff,
v.
ST. GEORGE'S UNIVERSITY, LLC, UNIVERSITY SUPPORT SERVICES, LLC, DANIELLE ROSEN, and DOES I-XX, Defendants

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For the Plaintiff: Jason J. Bach, Esq., Of Counsel, The Bach Law Firm, LLC, Las Vegas, NV.

For St. George's University, LLC and University Support Services, LLC, Defendants: Charles S. Sims, Esq., Of Counsel, Proskauer Rose, LLP, New York, NY.

For Danielle Rosen, Defendant: Catherine A. Brennan, Esq., Of Counsel, Fumuso, Kelly, DeVerna, Snyder, Swart & Farrell LLP, Hauppauge, NY.

For Does I-XX: NO APPEARANCES.

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MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

ARTHUR D. SPATT, United States District Judge.

On July 2, 2013, the Plaintiff Nitesh Ahluwalia (the " Plaintiff" ), a citizen and resident of Canada, commenced a diversity

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action, under docket no. 13-cv-3735, against the Defendants St. George's University, LTD. (" SGU Ltd." ), a Grenadian entity that owns and operates the medical school located in Grenada in which the Plaintiff was formerly enrolled; St. George's University, LLC (" SGU, LLC" ), University Support Services, LLC (" USS" ); Danielle Rosen (" Rosen" ); and related parties. The Plaintiff brought claims alleging (1) breach of contract; (2) negligent hiring, training and supervision; (3) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (4) defamation, libel and slander; and (5) intentional interference with contractual relations and prospective advantage. He sought compensatory and punitive damages, attorney's fees and costs; and injunctive relief.

On April 17, 2014, this Court dismissed that action " without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction," reasoning that " because there are foreign parties on both sides of this case, diversity is absent and the Court may not exercise subject matter jurisdiction over the lawsuit." Ahluwalia v. St. George's Univ., Ltd., No. 13-CV-3735 (ADS)(GRB), 2014 WL 1572269, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Apr. 17, 2014)(Spatt, J.).

On May 29, 2014, the Plaintiff brought this action SGU, LLC; USS; Rosen; and Does I-XX, removing as defendants all Grenadian entities and individual employees of SGU Ltd. The Plaintiff also removed the claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and for defamation, libel, and slander. The new complaint adds, as against Rosen, a claim of fraud.

On July 31, 2014, SGU, LLC and USS (the " St. George Defendants" ), both Delaware entities, moved pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (" Fed. R. Civ. P." ) 12(b)(6) to dismiss the complaint as against them for failure to state a cause of action upon which relief can be granted and, alternatively, on the basis of forum non conveniens.

On August 28, 2014, Rosen moved pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(5) and 12(b)(6) to dismiss the complaint as against her for insufficient service of process and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Unless stated otherwise, the following facts are drawn from the complaint and construed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, the Plaintiff.

A. The Parties and the Defendants' Connections to New York

The Plaintiff was at all relevant times a student in St. George's University School of Medicine (the " medical school" ).

Rosen is a resident of New York and was at all relevant times a student in the medical school.

SGU, LLC allegedly " wholly owns" the medical school, and USS allegedly acts as an " agent for both." (Compl., at ¶ 10.)

In particular, the medical school has at relevant times maintained an office, operated by USS, in Great River, New York. This office " accepts applications for admission, student forms, requests for program information and monetary donations for the School of Medicine according to the St. George's University website." (Id. at ¶ 4.)

USS also " engages in student recruitment, advertising, and the creation of website content for St. George's University School of Medicine." (Id. at ¶ 5.)

The Great River address is listed on the medical school website; is listed as the address for the Office of Admissions; and is the sole United States contact location for the Office of Enrollment Planning and Office of the Registrar.

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The New York office allegedly employs at least one associate dean and at least one admissions counselor.

According to the website, the medical school instructed students in temporary classes at the Brooklyn campus of Long Island University in 1983 and 1984. Also, according to the website, the medical school has been approved by the New York State Education Department since 1987 for the purpose of conducting clinical training programs in the State of New York.

The complaint further alleges that, according to the website, the medical school currently works with clinical centers throughout New York that provide rotations for 80 to 100 medical students at a time.

Finally, according to the website, the medical school is a participant in the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program through which student borrowers receive funding for their federal student loans directly from the United States Department of Education.

B. The Underlying Incident

In August 2011, the Plaintiff, a graduate of St. George's University Public Health Master's Program, began attending the medical school.

During his time at the medical school, the Plaintiff allegedly " always remained in good academic and non-academic standing." (Id. at ¶ 17.)

On the night of January 6, 2012, the Plaintiff went with several classmates, including Rosen, to an establishment near the medical school called " Bananas Bar and Restaurant." The Plaintiff alleges that, in the early morning hours of January 7, 2012,

an inebriated Rosen approached Plaintiff at Bananas and requested that he sleep over at her apartment that night. Plaintiff declined. Rosen persisted in her requests but Plaintiff declined each time.
About an hour later, Plaintiff and Rosen took a taxi back to their apartment complex together as they lived in the apartment complex a few doors down from each other. This entire incident is captured on surveillance video. As Plaintiff walked in front of Rosen toward his apartment intent on returning home without her, Rosen affectionately pulled Plaintiff with both hands from behind at waist level toward her apartment. Plaintiff walked away from her grip and continued toward his own apartment. At that point, Rosen amicably jumped on Plaintiff's back apparently continuing her flirtatious behavior toward Plaintiff. Plaintiff and Rosen arrived at Plaintiff's door when Plaintiff realized he did not have his keys. Rosen attempted to help Plaintiff get into his apartment and displayed affection toward Plaintiff again by hugging him while they were standing outside Plaintiff's door.
Plaintiff and Rosen then separated. Plaintiff headed back toward the main road near the apartment to wait for his brother to arrive and let him back in to his apartment. At the same time, Rosen walked alone back toward her apartment where she was seen on the surveillance footage stumbling due to extreme intoxication and falling hard into a wall. She then continued back to her apartment now holding the arm she slammed into the wall as if in pain as she walked.

(Id. at ¶ ¶ 18-20.)

C. The Medical School's Response

Later that day, on January 7, 2012, Rosen allegedly made a " false report" to the landlord of the apartment complex where she and the Plaintiff lived and then to the medical school, accusing the Plaintiff of

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assault. The Plaintiff maintains that the bruising on her arm that Rosen claimed was caused by Plaintiff attacking her actually corresponds to the video footage showing her fall into the wall and then walking back to her apartment holding her arm in pain. (Id. at ¶ 21.) The Plaintiff also disputes other aspects of Rosen's version of the events.

On January 19, 2012, the Plaintiff received a notice of violation from non-party, C.V. Rao, the Dean of Students of the medical school. This notice stated that the Plaintiff " may be in violation of the University Code of Conduct as outlined in the Student Manual 2011-2012," " specifically, by assaulting Danielle Rosen outside the Salim Apartments on Saturday 7th January, 2012." (Id. at ¶ 22.)(quotation marks omitted).

On January 23, 2012, the Plaintiff received a notice of a formal hearing to take place on January 25, 2012, where he was to appear before a Faculty Judiciary Board. The medical school's Judicial Process Manual provides: " Disciplinary cases in which the facts are in dispute or which require investigation may be referred, at the discretion of the Board, to a subcommittee of the Judiciary Board which may act as a fact finder." (Id.) However, the Plaintiff alleges that he " was not allowed the opportunity to discuss Rosen's personal vendetta against him, or the opportunity to ask that the board hear from witnesses on this topic." (Id.) The Plaintiff also finds fault with other aspects of the hearing.

Following the hearing, James Robinson (" Robinson" ), the Assistant Dean of Students, determined that the Defendant was guilty of assault.

On February 3, 2012, the Plaintiff was verbally informed by Robinson and Dr. Kirkby, the Associate Dean of Students, that the Judiciary Board had decided to dismiss him from the medical school. However, they allegedly informed the Plaintiff that he " would not be dismissed until he accepted the dismissal, or after the appeal process was over, thus allowing him to continue attending lecture, lab, and studying for exams." (Id. at ¶ 27.)

On February 8, 2012, Robinson " offered Plaintiff to leave the school voluntarily and waive his appeal rights in exchange for a clean academic record. Plaintiff refused as he was completely innocent of the allegations against him." (Id.)

On February 22, 2012, the Plaintiff formally appealed his dismissal to the Dean of the medical school, citing new security video tape evidence not available at the time of the hearing ...


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