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Pulliam v. USC Verdugo Hills Hospital

United States District Court, C.D. California

April 4, 2018

Carol Pulliam
USC Verdugo Hills Hospital et al.

          Present: The Honorable STEPHEN V. WILSON, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE



         I. Introduction

         This case was originally filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court by Carol Pulliam ("Plaintiff) against USC Verdugo Hills Hospital ("USC") and MSS Nurses Registry, Inc. ("MSS") (collectively, "Defendants"). Against USC, Pulliam alleges libel, slander, wrongful termination, intentional interference with employment contract, violation of Title VII, and violation of California Government Code § 12940 (h). Against MSS, Pulliam alleges libel, slander, violation of Title VII, and violations California Government Code § 12940 (h) and (k). Presently before the Court are both Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiffs Title VTJ claim, and REMANDS all remaining claims to the Los Angeles Superior Court.

         II. Facts

         Plaintiff is a licensed muse who practices in California. She was employed by MSS as an Agency Nurse for approximately 11 months, beginning September 7, 2015. Dkt. 55, p. 2. Agency muses generally work for a single parent company and are referred out to different medical care facilities. As part of Plaintiff s agency assignment with MSS, Plaintiff was assigned to USC Verdugo Hills Hospital on December 18, 2015.

         While at USC, a dispute arose over whether Plaintiff had failed to record a missing pill of Tramadol, a controlled narcotic. Plaintiff acknowledged removing the pill from the medication dispenser but no records indicated that a patient had received the pill. USC attempted to investigate the issue to determine if Plaintiff had committed a record-keeping error. Dkt. 88, p. 13. USC approached Plaintiff and asked about the missing pill. Plaintiff did not acknowledge any discrepancy and attempted to blame an unrelated error regarding the medication dispenser. Dkt. 88, p. 13; Dkt. 95, p. 10.[1]

         On January 25, 2018, Plaintiff separately claims that she was approached by an ICU charge muse who asked Plaintiff to sign a blank incident report so that USC could fire another muse. The charge muse indicated that she would use the incident report to fire a muse who caused the death of a patient. Plaintiff claims refused to sign the form because she did not have any personal knowledge of the incident. Dkt. 95, p. 5. Plaintiff asked the charge muse why she should sign the report and the charge muse said that she wanted Plaintiff to sign the incident report because Plaintiff was a "strong, black muse." Id.

         Plaintiff worked at USC for approximately two months. On January 27, 2016, USC asked MSS to place Plaintiff on a "Do Not Send" list, attributing this change to the medication error. Dkt. 88, p. 36.

         Procedurally, it is important to note that Defendants both served Plaintiff with requests for admission and Plaintiff did not respond to either Defendant. As a result of Plaintiff s refusal to respond to both Defendants' Requests for Admission, the requests are automatically deemed admitted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(3); Federal Trade Comm. v. Medicor LLC, 217 F.Supp.2d 1048, 1053 (CD. Cal. 2002). Accordingly, Plaintiff has made the following admissions. Plaintiff committed a medication error on or about January 17, 2016. (UMF 48.) MSS placed her on a do-not-call list for legithnate, non-discriminatory reasons. (UMF 49.) Plaintiffs race had nothing do with MSS placing her on a do-not-call list. (UMF 50). Plaintiff was never discriminated against during her employment with MSS. (UMF 51.) Plaintiffs employment was not terminated because of her race. (UMF 52.) Despite the fact that these admissions significantly determine the issues for summary judgment in this matter, the Court finds that even without these admissions, the Court GRANTS summary judgment for the Defendants on the Title VTI claims.

         III. Legal Standard

         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." Matsuhito Elec. Indus. Co. Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate when there is "no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Accordingly, summary judgment should be entered "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Cehtex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         A party seeking summary judgment bears the "initial responsibility" of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Cehtex, 411 U.S. at 323. If the moving party meets its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to present specific facts that show there is a genuine issue of a material fact. Fed R. Civ. P. 56(e); Matsuhita, 475 U.S. at 586. An opposing party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Id. at 587.

         IV. ...

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