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Robert Jablonski, Md. v. Sierra Kings Healthcare District

July 14, 2011

ROBERT JABLONSKI, MD.
PLAINTIFF,
v.
SIERRA KINGS HEALTHCARE DISTRICT, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO VOID JUDGMENT PURSUANT TO F.R.C.P. 60 AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT Doc. #'s 111, 111-3 and 67

In this action by plaintiff Robert Jablonsky, M.D. ("Plaintiff") for damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendant Sierra Kings Health Care District ("Defendant"), the court dismissed the action and ordered that judgment be entered in favor of Defendant on June 6, 2010. The court's order dismissing the action was based primarily on the lack of any response by Plaintiff to an order to show cause that was filed by the court on September 24, 2009. Currently before the court is Plaintiff's motion to set aside void judgment pursuant to Rule 60(b)(4) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Doc. # 111. Also before the court is Plaintiff's response to the court's order to show cause. Doc. # 111-3. For the reasons that follow the court's order dismissing the action and order directing entry of judgment in favor of Defendants will remain in effect.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The factual background of this action has been set forth in some detail in prior decisions of this court and need not be repeated in detail here. See Doc. #'s 11, 39 and 103. Briefly, Plaintiff is a physician and surgeon whose privileges to practice at defendant Sierra Kings District Hospital were summarily revoked or suspended in September 1997. Prior orders of the court have dismissed all state law claims that were previously adjudicated in state proceedings and have limited Plaintiff to a claim or claims arising from the procedural Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In its Order on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, filed on September 24, 2009, (the "September 24 Order") the court found that Plaintiff's action turned on the issue of whether the procedures that had been provided by Defendant at the time of, or immediately following the summary suspension/revocation of privileges, were constitutionally sufficient for purposes of Fourteenth Amendment due process. The court found that the parties' failure to focus sufficiently on that issue prevented a final determination of Defendant's motion for summary judgment. Specifically, the court observed:

Unfortunately, the parties' nearly exclusive focus on the delay in the completion of the administrative process has resulted in pleadings that lack any allegation or discussion of the process [that] was provided to Plaintiff, either by design or by happenstance, at the time of or immediately after the summary suspension. For purposes of the present discussion, the court will rely on its review of the information provided in Defendant's exhibits in support of its motion for summary judgment. It appears that for purposes of this preliminary discussion that the information the court can glean from the documents provided is sufficient to allow the court to make fairly accurate presumption[s] about the process that was provided initially. The court will leave it to the parties to dispute, modify or add to the factual basis of the motion for summary judgment or opposition thereto. Doc. # 103 at 14:5-14.

The court's September 24 Order, after noting the absence of allegation or argument with regard to the procedures that were provided in the 30 days following the revocation/suspension of privileges, deduced what facts it could from the exhibits that were provided in support of Defendant's motion for summary judgment. The court concluded:

The materials noted above show that the administrative process available to Plaintiff within the first thirty days after summary suspension of Plaintiff's medical staff privileges offered Plaintiff notice and the opportunity to respond, both in person and in writing, to both the general and specific charges against Plaintiff. In light of [ Laudermill v. Cleveland Bd. Of Educ., 470 U.S. 532 (1985)], which held that basic notice and opportunity to respond meaningfully to charges is sufficient where more extensive post-deprivation procedures are provided and given the elements of formality that are not constitutionally mandated by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as listed in [Yashon v. Hunt, 825 F.2d 1016 (6th Cir. 1987), the court finds that Plaintiff may well have been afforded the process that was due immediately post-deprivation. Doc. # 103 at 16:8-16 (italics added).

The court's September 24 Order provisionally found that the facts available in the parties' pleadings at that time indicated that Plaintiff was probably provided constitutionally sufficient process immediately post-deprivation and that summary judgment was probably appropriate given the state of the facts. In the interest of a full opportunity for both parties to address the issue, the court offered Plaintiff an opportunity to further elaborate on the factual context in light of the court's tentative decision. The order was set forth in the form of an order to show cause that directed Plaintiff to either show that the pleading set forth in the First Amended Complaint was sufficient to state a claim for relief or to seek leave to amend. Any response to the court's September 24 Order was due not later than October 19, 2009.

On October 13, 2009, a notice was filed by Plaintiff concerning the initiation of bankruptcy proceedings by Defendant Sierra Kings. On October 21, 2009, a Notice of Filing of Bankruptcy was filed by Defendant Sierra-Kings. On June 7, 2010, the court issued an order dismissing the case with prejudice and ordered the entry of judgment in favor of Defendant. The clerk of the court entered judgment on the same day. The instant motion for relief from void judgment was filed on June 7, 2011.

LEGAL STANDARDS

Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that there exists no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970); Poller v. Columbia Broadcast System, 368 U.S. 464, 467 (1962); Jung v. FMC Corp., 755 F.2d 708, 710 (9th Cir. 1985); Loehr v. Ventura County Community College Dist., 743 F.2d 1310, 1313 (9th Cir. 1984).

Under summary judgment practice, the moving party always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any," which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Although the party moving for summary judgment always has the initial responsibility of informing the court, the nature of the responsibility varies "depending on whether the legal issues are ones on which the movant or the non-movant would bear the burden of proof at trial." Cecala v. Newman, 532 F.Supp.2d 1118, 1132-1133 (D. Ariz. 2007). When the moving party has the burden of proof at trial, that party must carry its initial burden at summary judgment by presenting evidence affirmatively showing, for all essential elements of its case, that no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party. United States v. Four Parcels of Real Property, 941 F.2d 1428, 1438 (11th Cir.1991) (en banc); Calderone v. United States, 799 F.2d 254, 259 (6th Cir. 1986); see also E.E.O.C. v. Union Independiente De La Autoridad De Acueductos Y Alcantarillados De Puerto Rico, 279 F.3d 49, 55 (1st Cir. 2002) (stating that if "party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of proof on an issue, he cannot prevail unless the evidence that he provides on that issue is conclusive.")

If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually does exist. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); First Nat'l Bank of Arizona v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288-89 (1968); Ruffin v. County of Los Angeles, 607 F.2d 1276, 1280 (9th Cir. 1979). In attempting to establish the existence of this factual dispute, the opposing party may not rely upon the mere allegations or denials of its pleadings, but is required to tender evidence of specific facts in the form of affidavits, and/or admissible discovery material, in support of its contention that the dispute exists. Rule 56(e); Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 n.11; First Nat'l Bank, 391 U.S. at 289; Strong v. France, 474 F.2d 747, 749 (9th Cir. 1973). The opposing party must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987), and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, Anderson, 477 U.S. 248-49; Wool v. Tandem Computers, Inc., 818 F.2d 1433, 1436 (9th Cir. 1987).

In the endeavor to establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that "the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." First Nat'l Bank, 391 U.S. at 290; T.W. Elec. Serv., 809 F.2d at 631. Thus, the "purpose of summary judgment is to 'pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. ...


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