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Lakhanpal v. Valley Consortium for Medical Education

United States District Court, Eastern District of California.

November 10, 2014

PRINCY LAKHANPAL, M.D., Plaintiff,
v.
VALLEY CONSORTIUM FOR MEDICAL EDUCATION, COUNTY OF STANISLAUS, DOCTORS MEDICAL CENTER OF MODESTO, INC., KATE KEARNS, M.D., PETER BRODERICK, M.D., ELIZABETH WHIPKEY-OLSON, M.D., AND DOES 1-10, inclusive, Defendants.

ORDER

This matter is before the court on plaintiff’s motion to remand this case to the Superior Court of California, County of Stanislaus. Pl.’s Mot. Remand (“Pl.’s Mot.”), ECF No. 28. Defendant Valley Consortium for Medical Education opposes the motion. Def.’s Opp’n (“Opp’n”), ECF No. 35. Defendants County of Stanislaus, Kate Kearns, M.D., Peter Broderick, M.D., and Elizabeth Whipkey-Olson, M.D. have joined the opposition. ECF No. 42. The motion was submitted without argument, and the court now GRANTS the motion.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Princy Lakhanpal, M.D., filed this action in Stanislaus County Superior Court on June 5, 2014. The original complaint asserted claims for (1) fraud – intentional misrepresentation; (2) discrimination – disparate treatment; (3) discrimination – violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981; (4) discrimination – violation of California Government Code § 12940(i); (5) discrimination – retaliation; (6) defamation; (7) violation of California Civil Code § 43; (8) tortious interference with prospective advantage; (9) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (10) negligence; (11) unfair business act or practice – California Business & Professions Code § 17200; (12) breach of contract; and (13) breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. On August 22, 2014, defendants removed the action to this court based on federal question jurisdiction. Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1.

On August 28, 2014, defendant Doctors Medical Center of Modesto (“DMC”) filed a motion to dismiss. ECF No. 7. On August 29th, defendants Valley Consortium for Medical Education (“VCME”) filed a motion to dismiss. ECF No. 12. That same day, defendants Peter Broderick, M.D., County of Stanislaus, Kate Kearns, M.D., Elizabeth Whipkey-Olson, M.D. filed a motion to dismiss. ECF No. 10.

On September 22, 2014, plaintiff filed a first amended complaint (“FAC”). ECF No. 27. In doing so, plaintiff withdrew all of the claims arising under or claiming relief within federal law. Specifically, plaintiff withdrew her third cause of action (discrimination under Section 1981) and eliminated references to federal law, federal jurisdiction, and federal relief for her second cause of action (discrimination – disparate treatment) and fourth cause of action (discrimination – retaliation). Twelve causes of action arising under California state law remain. Also on September 22nd, plaintiff filed the present motion for remand. ECF No. 28. On September 26, 2014, plaintiff filed her oppositions to the three motions to dismiss. ECF Nos. 29, 30, 31. VCME filed an opposition to plaintiff’s motion for remand (ECF No. 35) which the remaining defendants, Peter Broderick, M.D. County of Stanislaus, Kate Kearns, M.D., and Elizabeth Whipkey-Olson, M.D., have joined. ECF No. 42.

In light of the new complaint, all defendants withdrew their motions to dismiss and filed new motions, which remain pending. ECF Nos. 39, 41, 43.

II. ALLEGATIONS OF THE FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

Dr. Lakhanpal was a resident physician enrolled from July 2008 through June 2010 in the Stanislaus Family Medicine Resident Program (“FMRP”), predecessor to the VCME. FAC ¶ 1. VCME is the successor-in-interest to the Stanislaus FMRP, which was a partnership between Stanislaus County Health Services Agency and DMC. Id. ¶ 2. As successor-in-interest, VCME possesses and maintains all records associated with former residents of the FMRP, and communicates with public and private third party entities regarding the status of individual residents’ academic history and performance for purposes of determining eligibility of those individuals for licenses, board certification, the pursuit of further education, or employment. Id.

On September 18, 2008, three months into her residency at Stanislaus FMRP, Dr. Lakhanpal met with defendant Dr. Whipkey-Olson and received positive feedback. Id ¶ 14. On October 8, 2008, the FMRP House Officers Promotion and Evaluation Committee (the “Committee”) met and issued a letter dated October 10, 2008, documenting Dr. Lakhanpal’s “below peer performance.” Id ¶ 15. Dr. Lakhanpal did not receive this letter, but believes it was placed in her personnel file. Id In mid-December 2008, Dr. Lakhanpal received two negative evaluations. Id ¶ 16.

On or about December 16, 2008, the Committee met and noted Dr. Lakhanpal had “failed a medicine rotation.” Id ¶ 19. It concluded Dr. Lakhanpal met the criteria for probation and her performance on her upcoming rotations would be a factor in determining whether probation was appropriate. Id Dr. Lakhanpal had no notice of this meeting or decision until receiving her personnel file on June 30, 2010. Id; see also id ¶ 46.

On or about March 2, 2009, Dr. Lakhanpal met with FMRP Program Director Dr. Broderick. Id ¶ 17. He informed Dr. Lakhanpal that her training as a PGY-1 (post-graduate year intern) would be extended by six months. As a result, she would not begin her training as a PGY-2 until December 2009. Id Dr. Lakhanpal expressed her disagreement with the unsatisfactory evaluations that were submitted in December by the two attending physicians. Id Dr. Broderick offered no other grounds for the extension of her training and offered no other explanation beyond saying the additional training should not be viewed as a negative but rather as a positive. Id.

On or about March 3, 2009, the Committee again met to review Dr. Lakhanpal’s performance through her PGY-1 year. Id. ¶ 20. Despite Dr. Lakhanpal’s having passed all rotations and receiving all satisfactory evaluations since it last met on December 16, 2008, the Committee still found that Dr. Lakhanpal had failed a major criterion as a PGY-1 resident. Id. In late April 2009, Dr. Lakhanpal met with Dr. Whipkey-Olsen, who was her resident advisor. Id. ¶ 25. The meeting was positive and at no point did Dr. Lakhanpal or Dr. Whipkey-Olson discuss the failed rotation, any denial of academic credit, probation, the below-peer-level evaluation, or academic assistance or monitoring. Id.

On May 4, 2009, Dr. Broderick placed a letter of probation in Dr. Lakhanpal’s personnel file. Id. ¶ 26. The letter indicated that Dr. Lakhanpal had been placed on probation from May 2009 through December 31, 2009. Id. Probation was the result of (1) a new Committee review and (2) her failing a second medicine rotation while on an Academic Assistance. Id. Plaintiff was not aware she had failed either medical rotation. Id.

On July 17, 2009, based on her satisfactory performance, Dr. Lakhanpal was offered a PGY-2 contract. Id. ¶ 29. Her training was to begin December 14, 2009, and would continue through December 13, 2010. Id. However on November 4, 2009, Dr. Broderick met with Dr. Lakhanpal to discuss his plan not to renew her contract. Id. ΒΆ 31. Dr. Lakhanpal appealed the decision to a quorum of the faculty ...


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