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Bastidas v. Good Samaritan Hospital LP

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 12, 2017

J. AUGUSTO BASTIDAS, Plaintiff,
v.
GOOD SAMARITAN HOSPITAL LP, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER RE MOTIONS IN LIMINE RE: DKT. NO. 218

          SUSAN ILLSTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         BACKGROUND

         This dispute arises out of defendant Good Samaritan Hospital's (“GSH's”) suspension of plaintiff's surgical privileges. Plaintiff initially filed this suit alleging discrimination and disparate treatment based on race. After substantial motion practice, plaintiff's two remaining claims are for retaliation under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Plaintiff seeks to prove at trial that defendants retaliated against him for filing and prosecuting his discrimination lawsuit. Plaintiff will seek to prove that defendants: (1) unreasonably and intentionally delayed finalizing and implementing plaintiff's surgical proctoring program (“FPPE”); and (2) unreasonably and intentionally delayed updating the National Practitioner Data Bank (“NPDB”) with details of plaintiff's limited suspension.

         This case is set for trial on June 5, 2017. In anticipation of trial, defendant has filed six motions in limine, asking the Court to exclude or limit evidence. In particular, defendant seeks to exclude or limit: (1) evidence of prior court orders; (2) evidence or argument relating to plaintiff's June 4, 2015 meeting with Dr. Paul Beaupre; (3) testimony from Dr. James Lilja; (4) testimony about plaintiff's emotional distress; (5) evidence of plaintiff's professional memberships, awards, and presentations; and (6) damages calculations. These motions are appropriate for decision without oral argument.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Prior Court Orders

         Defendant seeks to limit plaintiff's introduction of the Court's prior orders in this case, which plaintiff intends to use to outline the procedural progress of the case and to demonstrate that plaintiff engaged in a “protected activity” - namely, filing this lawsuit against defendant. Opp'n (Dkt. No. 226) at 3-4. Defendant does not dispute that filing this lawsuit is a protected activity, Reply (Dkt. No. 230) at 3, and is willing to stipulate to the “occurrence and timing of relevant procedural events in this case.” Id. Accordingly, plaintiff does not need to introduce the content of prior Court orders to show that he engaged in a protected activity.

         Plaintiff also contends that the “jury is entitled to know that defendants had fair notice that their delays could be found to be retaliatory, and when defendant knew this.” Opp'n (Dkt. No. 226) at 4. Specifically, plaintiff wants to introduce the following language from the Court's March 15, 2016 Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss:

Defendants were therefore on notice that the Court considered the prosecution of this case to be a protected activity, and that any alleged retaliatory acts following the filing of this compliant having to do with a failure to timely institute a proctoring plan, or limiting Dr. Bastidas's surgical privileges, would be carefully scrutinized.

Id. (citing Order on Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. No. 152) at 3).

         Order excerpts, such as the one above, are of questionable relevance, and they pose a substantial danger of unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, and wasting time. See Fed. R. Evid. 403. As such, the parties may stipulate to a procedural timeline that includes dates of various Court orders, but the content of the orders will be excluded under Rule 403. Defendant's first motion in limine is GRANTED.

         II. June 2015 Meeting with Dr. Paul Beaupre

         Defendant's second motion in limine seeks to exclude evidence or argument related to plaintiff's June 4, 2015 meeting with Dr. Paul Beaupre, GSH's former CEO. On June 4, 2015, plaintiff and Dr. Paul Beaupre met in Beaupre's office to discuss plaintiff's general surgery emergency room call contract. Plaintiff alleges that during the meeting, Dr. Beaupre demanded that plaintiff apologize for filing this discrimination lawsuit. After plaintiff refused to apologize, Beaupre allegedly “kicked him out” of his office.

         Defendant first argues that evidence about this meeting is irrelevant because implementing the FPPE and amending the NPDB fell outside Dr. Beaupre's bailiwick. Mot. (Dkt. No. 218) at 4-5. However, even accepting defendant's argument that Dr. Beaupre was cut off from medical staff decision-making, [1] the meeting is relevant because it may suggest an antagonistic relationship between GSH and Dr. Bastidas. A breakdown in plaintiff's relationship with the GSH CEO could be seen as part of an ongoing “pattern of antagonism.” Under Rule 401's extremely broad standard, this evidence is relevant.

         Defendant also argues that evidence of the meeting should be excluded under Rule 403, because its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of confusing the issues and unfair prejudice. Defendant argues that the meeting concerned plaintiff's call contract, which is not at issue here, and that Dr. Beaupre's view of plaintiff's lawsuit is irrelevant to his retaliation claim, and thus likely to confuse the jury. See Reply (Dkt. No. 230) at 5. However, nothing suggests that defendant's concerns substantially outweigh the evidence's probative value. Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Beaupre asked him to apologize for accusing Beaupre of being “racist” in his lawsuit and then kicked plaintiff out of his office when he declined to talk about the lawsuit. Although dramatic, both sides will have the opportunity to present their version of the meeting. Evidence of the meeting is probative because it casts doubt on defendant's stated reasons for the NPDB and FPPE delays, two central issues of the case.

         Evidence concerning the meeting is probative, and its value is not substantially outweighed by the risk of confusion or prejudice. Defendant's second motion in limine is DENIED.

         III. Dr. James Lilja

         Plaintiff intends to introduce the testimony of Dr. James Lilja, plaintiff's friend and colleague, to show:

The qualifications, quality of care of Dr. Bastidas in oncology treatment; the consequences of continued suspension of Dr. Bastidas and of an adverse NPDB report; interaction with the medical community; effect of exclusion from cancer clinical activities; patient referral patterns; recruitment of medical associates; advanced cancer care alternatives.

Opp'n (Dkt. No. 226) at 7.

         Defendant moves to exclude this evidence on two bases. First, defendant argues that Dr. Lilja's testimony should be excluded because plaintiff failed to disclose Dr. Lilja as a witness pursuant to Rule 26(a). Second, defendant argues that Dr. Lilja's testimony is inadmissible opinion testimony under Rule 701 because it relies upon Dr. Lilja's specialized knowledge.

         A. Failure to Disclose

         Defendant states that plaintiff first disclosed Dr. Lilja as a witness in his list of trial witnesses. Mot. at 6. Plaintiff's initial disclosure of witnesses did not specifically name Dr. Lilja, but plaintiff argues that Dr. Lilja fell into the statement's catch-all language:

Other as yet unidentified doctors at Good Samaritan Hospital and elsewhere, who have information about Dr. Bastidas' privileges and whose identities will be obtained by ...

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