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Spring v. County of Monroe

United States District Court, W.D. New York

May 7, 2015

TODD SPRING, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF MONROE, NEW YORK, MONROE COMMUNITY HOSPITAL, MAGGIE BROOKS, AS MONROE COUNTY EXECUTIVE, DANIEL J. DE LAUS, JR., ESQ., WILLIAM K. TAYLOR, ESQ., BRETT GRANVILLE, ESQ., MERIDETH H. SMITH, ESQ., KAREN FABI, Defendants

For Todd Spring, Plaintiff: Glenn E. Pezzulo, Culley, Marks, Tanenbaum & Pezzulo, Rochester, NY.

For County of Monroe, New York, Monroe Community Hospital, Maggie Brooks, as Monroe County Executive, Daniel M., Jr., Esq. DeLaus, William K, Esq. Taylor, Brett, Esq. Granville, Smith H., Esq. Merideth, Defendants, Cross Defendants: Eugene Welch, LEAD ATTORNEY, Letty L. Laskowski, Harris Chesworth O'Brien Johnstone Welch & Leone LLP, Rochester, NY; Howard A. Stark, Monroe County Department of Law, Rochester, NY; Mark J. Valerio, Moran & Kufta, P.C., Rochester, NY.

For Karen Fabi, Defendant: Charles D. Steinman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Jeffrey Wicks PLLC, Rochester, NY; Jeffrey Wicks, LEAD ATTORNEY, Jeffrey Wicks, PLLC, Rochester, NY; Maureen G. Fatcheric, Costello Cooney & Fearon PLLC, Camillus, NY.

For Karen Fabi, Cross Claimant: Jeffrey Wicks, LEAD ATTORNEY, Jeffrey Wicks, PLLC, Rochester, NY; Maureen G. Fatcheric, Costello Cooney & Fearon PLLC, Camillus, NY.

DECISION AND ORDER

DAVID G. LARIMER, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Todd Spring (" Spring" ), a former employee of Monroe Community Hospital (the " Hospital" ), commenced the instant action against the County of Monroe (the " County" ), the Hospital, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks (" Brooks" ), Hospital Supervisor of Safety and Security Karen Fabi (" Fabi" ), Deputy County Executive Daniel M. DeLaus, Jr. (" DeLaus" ), and Monroe County District attorneys William K. Taylor (" Taylor" ), Brett Granville (" Granville" ), and Merideth H. Smith (" Smith" ). Spring primarily alleges that the defendants deprived him of his right to free speech under the First Amendment, and subjected him to defamation, negligence and legal malpractice, in violation of 42 U.S.C. ''1981, 1983 and 1988, and New York common law.

On November 13, 2014, the Court denied, without prejudice, prior motions by the defendants to dismiss the original complaint in this action, and permitted Spring leave to file an amended complaint. (Dkt. #38, #39). Defendant Fabi now moves to dismiss the defamation claim against her (Dkt. #40), and the other defendants collectively move to dismiss the remainder of the amended complaint for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 12(b)(6). (Dkt. #42). For the following reasons, the defendants' motion to dismiss (Dkt. #42) is granted in part, Spring's First Amendment free speech claim is dismissed, and the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Spring's state common law claims. Those claims, as well as Fabi's motion to dismiss Spring's defamation claim against her (Dkt. #40) are remanded to New York State Supreme Court, Monroe County.

FACTS

In or about 2004, after several years of employment with the County, Spring became the Executive Health Director/Chief Administrative Officer of the Hospital. In or about February 2013, questions arose concerning Spring's treatment of a particular Hospital resident, S.C. The County Human Resources Department investigated, and made findings that Spring alleges were favorable to him. On or about March 2013, the New York State Department of Health (" NYSDOH" ) commenced its own investigation into the S.C. matter. In connection with that investigation, defendants DeLaus, Taylor, Granville and Smith provided legal representation to Spring, as well as the County and at least twenty other Hospital staff members.

Spring alleges that on March 28, 2013, he and Taylor participated in a conference call with the NYSDOH to discuss the S.C. matter. Plaintiff alleges that Taylor prevented him from speaking with the NYSDOH representatives during that call, by instructing him to remain silent so that the representatives would not realize that plaintiff was listening to the call.

On March 29, the NYSDOH issued a Statement of Deficiency, indicating the most serious possible finding, Immediate Jeopardy (meaning noncompliance with regulations, causing or likely to cause serious harm to a resident) at the Hospital, based on Spring's treatment of S.C. See 42 CFR § 489.3 et seq. Spring alleges that he was thereafter barred by the defendants from participating in the NYSDOH investigation, and instructed not to communicate with anyone about S.C. or the NYSDOH findings, including the NYSDOH, other Hospital employees, and local news media who were reporting on the matter. Spring contends that Hospital representatives told him that the Hospital would respond on his behalf to the negative publicity surrounding the matter, but that the Hospital failed to do so. Instead, Spring was terminated from employment [by unspecified " [d]efendants" ] on May 10, 2013. (Dkt. #39 at ¶ 62). The same day, Brooks was quoted in a local newspaper as having said that " [w]e want stability at that hospital," and that " Spring fell short of our standard in excellence in care that we have at that facility." (Dkt. #39 at ¶ 63).

Spring alleges that he was denied the right to defend himself against the NYSDHR's findings because the defendants failed to timely request an informal dispute resolution procedure to contest the deficiency finding, even though the Hospital's initial investigation and an independent consultant hired by defendants later had both concluded that Spring had not acted improperly.

Spring alleges that if he had been permitted to speak to the NYSDOH, the public, and/or the news media, he would have defended his conduct in the S.C. matter, by proving that his treatment of S.C. was an appropriate response to S.C.'s dangerous conduct, and ...


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