United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT (DOC NOS. 275, 288, 289, 291)
A. HOUSTON United States District Judge
before the Court are Defendants Children's Hospital of
Orange County ("CHOC"), Children's Hospital of
Orange County Medical Staff ("CHOC Medical Staff), Dr.
Amanda Gosman and Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego
("Dr. Gosman and Rady's"), and Dr. Daniel
Jaffurs' ("Dr. Jaffurs") Motions for Summary
Judgment. See Doc. Nos. 275, 288, 289, 291.
Plaintiff Dr. Jason Toranto ("Plaintiff or "Dr.
Toranto") filed responses in opposition. See
Doc. Nos. 305, 311, 320. The Motions are fully briefed. After
careful consideration of the pleadings filed by all parties,
and for the reasons set forth below, this Court
DENIES Defendants' Motions for Summary
Toranto is a pediatric plastic surgeon and craniofacial
surgeon. Doc. No. 263 at pg. 2. Dr. Toranto and Dr. Jaffurs
are former colleagues from previous employment at the UC
Irvine School of Medicine ("UCI") and later,
Children's Hospital of Orange County ("CHOC").
Id. Dr. Toranto alleges that Dr. Jaffurs made false
and defamatory statements that caused CHOC Pediatric
Subspecialty Faculty (the "CHOC Foundation") to
deny Dr. Toranto an employment opportunity. Id. Dr.
Toranto alleges that after he moved to San Diego, Dr. Jaffurs
acted in concert with Dr. Amanda Gosman, the Chief of Plastic
Surgery at Rady Children's Specialists of San Diego and
UCSD, and continued to make false and defamatory statements
to Rady Children's Hospital, Rady Children's
Specialists of San Diego (the "Rady Foundation"),
and the University of California, San Diego
("UCSD"). Id. at pg. 3. In addition, Dr.
Toranto alleges that Dr. Maria Minon, the Chief Medical
Officer at Children's Hospital Orange County, acted
within the scope of her employment when making false oral
statements to Rady's Children's and the Rady
Children's Medical Staff. Id. at page 16, 50.
Dr. Toranto alleges that Rady Children's Hospital denied
his application without speaking to or meeting with him, and
without going through an objective peer review process to
assess his qualifications. Id. at pg. 4.
Toranto brings this case against Defendants, alleging seven
causes of action: (1) conspiracy in restraint of trade; (2)
monopoly; (3) retaliation pursuant to California Business
& Professional Code §§ 510-512; (4) defamation;
(5) violation of Labor Code § 1050 et seq.; (6) tortious
interference with prospective economic advantage; and (7)
unfair competition. See Doc. No. 263.
1, 2016, Dr. Toranto filed his initial complaint against CHOC
Medical Group, CHOC Medical Staff, Children's Hospital of
Orange County, Dr. Gosman, Dr. Jaffurs, The Regents of the
University of California, and various Rady entities.
See Doc. No. 1. On August 15, 2016, Dr. Toranto
filed an amended complaint. See Doc. No. 21. Rady's filed
a motion to dismiss on September 1, 2016, and Dr. Jaffurs
filed a motion to dismiss on September 13, 2016. See
Doc Nos. 21, 32. On March 21, 2018, this Court issued an
Order GRANTING in part and DENYING in part Defendants'
motions to dismiss. See Doc. No. 107. Dr. Toranto
filed a Second Amended Complaint on July 25, 2018 and a Third
Amended Complaint on March 11, 2019. See Doc. Nos.
169, 263. On March 21, 2019, Children's Hospital of
Orange County filed an Amended Motion for Summary Judgment.
See Doc. No. 275. On April 15, 2019, Dr. Gosman and
Rady's filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. See
Doc. No. 288. On April 15, 2019, Dr. Jaffurs filed a Motion
for Summary Judgment. See Doc. No. 289. On April 15,
2019, CHOC Medical Staff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment.
See Doc. No. 291. Plaintiff filed a response in
opposition to Rady Defendants' Motion for Summary
Judgment on June 3, 2019. See Doc. No. 305. On June
4, 2019, Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to CHOC and
CMS Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. See
Doc. No. 311. Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to
Defendant Dr. Jaffurs' Motion for Summary Judgment on
June 10, 2019. See Doc. No. 320.
judgment is only appropriate when no genuine dispute of
material fact exists. Irdeto Access, Inc. v. Echostar
Satellite Corp., 383 F.3d 1295, 1299 (Fed. Cir. 2004),
quoting Bai v. L & L Wings, Inc., 160 F.3d 1350,
1353 (Fed. Cir. 1998).
is material when, under the governing substantive law, it
could affect the outcome of the case. See
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986); Freeman v. Arpaio, 125 F.3d 732, 735 (9th
Cir. 1997). A dispute about a material fact is genuine if
"the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party."
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
seeking summary judgment always bears the initial burden of
establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323
(1986). The moving party may satisfy this burden in two ways:
(1) by presenting evidence that negates an essential element
of the nonmoving party's case or (2) by demonstrating
that the nonmoving party failed to make a showing sufficient
to establish an element essential to that party's case on
which that party will bear the burden or proof at trial.
Id. at pgs. 322-23.
the party moving for summary judgment does not bear the
burden of proof at trial, it may show that no genuine issue
of material fact exists by demonstrating "there is an
absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's
case." Id. at pg. 325. The moving party is not
required to produce evidence showing the absence of a genuine
issue of material fact, nor is it required to offer evidence
negating the nonmoving party's claim. Lujan v.
National Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 885 (1990);
United Steelworkers v. Phelps Dodge Corp., 865 F.2d
1539, 1542 (9th Cir. 1989). "Rather, the motion may, and
should, be granted so long as whatever is before the District
Court demonstrates that the standard for the entry of
judgment, as set forth in Rule 56(c), is satisfied."
Lujan, 497 U.S. at 885 (quoting Celotex,
477 U.S. at 323). If the moving party fails to discharge this
initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and the court
need not consider the nonmoving party's evidence. See
Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 159-60
over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude a
grant of summary judgment." T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc.
v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626,
630 (9th Cir. 1987). "The district court may limit its
review to the documents submitted for purpose of summary
judgment and those parts of the record specifically
referenced therein." Carmen v. San Francisco Unified
Sch. Dist, 237 F.3d 1026, 1030 (9th Cir. 2001).
Therefore, the court need not "scour the record in
search of a genuine issue of triable fact." Keenan
v. Allen, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996) (citing
Richards v. Combined Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 247, 251 (7th
court may not make credibility determinations, and inferences
to be drawn from the facts must be viewed in the light most
favorable to the party opposing the motion. Masson v. New
Yorker Magazine, 501 U.S. 496, 520 (1991); see
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Matsushita, 475
U.S. At 587.
Court will first address CHOC and CHOC Medical Staffs
Motions. CHOC Medical Staff makes the same arguments as CHOC.
See Doc. No. 291-1. The Court will then address the Motion
filed by Dr. Gosman and Rady's, followed by the Motion
filed by Dr. Jaffurs.
CHOC and CHOC Medical Staff
Agency and Respondeat Superior
argues that California law prevents lay organizations from
exercising control over decisions made by physicians. Doc.
No. 275-1 at pgs. 18-19. CHOC contends that the medical
staff, not the hospital, controls the hiring of physicians.
Id. at pg. 19. CHOC argues that respondeat superior
does not apply here because one could not reasonably
conclude, based upon the evidence, that Dr. Toranto was a
CHOC employee. Id. at pgs. 21-24. CHOC further
argues that it did not supervise Dr. Toranto, did not pay
him, and never created an employer-employee relationship.
Id. at pg. 24. CHOC contends that Dr. Jaffurs was
never an agent of CHOC. Id. at pg. 29. CHOC argues
that Dr. Toranto does not allege that Dr. Jaffurs'
unlawful conduct was authorized or ratified by CHOC.
Id. at pg. 30. CHOC argues that the "gravamen
of [Dr. Toranto's] claims against CHOC is the conduct of
Jaffurs, not CHOC."
response, Dr. Toranto argues that Dr. Jaffurs represented
himself as CHOC's agent, and CHOC assented to this
representation through silence. Doc. No. 311 at pg. 18. Dr.
Toranto contends that Dr. Jaffurs "exercised apparent
authority as CHOC's Medical Director of Plastic Surgery
when he deprived Plaintiff of clinic time at CHOC."
Id. Dr. Toranto asserts that by delegating
responsibilities for peer review activities to its medical
staff, the hospital impliedly makes the medical staff its
agent. Id. at pgs. 18-19. Dr. Toranto contends that
Dr. Jaffurs and Dr. Minon are also agents of CHOC Medical
Staff. Id. at pgs. 19-20. Dr. Toranto asserts that
Dr. Jaffurs, as the Section Chief of Plastic Surgery,
designated himself as an agent of the CHOC Medical Staff.
Id. at pg. 20. Dr. Toranto contends that among Dr.
Jaffurs' other duties, his responsibilities as Section
Chief included acting as a presiding officer at section
meetings, participating in the administration of the section,
and launching investigations into the clinical privileges of
section members. Id. Dr. Toranto argues that Dr.
Minon, as Vice President of Medical Affairs and Chief Medical
Officer at CHOC, was also an agent of CHOC. Id. Dr.
Minon was appointed by CHOC's CEO and served as an
administrative liaison between hospital administrators.
Id. Dr. Toranto argues that both Dr. Jaffurs and Dr.
Minon were empowered and subject to removal from their
positions by the CHOC bylaws. Id. Dr. Toranto argues
thus, Dr. Jaffurs and Dr. Minon's communications with
Rady's Hospital were done as agents on behalf of CHOC and
CHOC Medical Staff. Id. at pgs. 20-24.
asserts that the Health Care Quality Improvement Act creates
immunity from damages liability for professionals who
participate in peer review activities. See Doc. No. 275-1.
CHOC also asserts that the standard for such immunity covers
all professional review action taken in the following
in the reasonable belief that the action was in the
furtherance of quality health care, (2) after reasonable
effort to obtain the facts of the matter, (3) after adequate
notice and hearing procedures are afforded to the physician
or after such other procedures as are fair to the physician
under the circumstances; and (4) in the reasonable belief
that the action was warranted by the facts known after such
reasonable effort to obtain facts and after meeting the
requirements of paragraph 3." Id. at pgs. 19-20
contends that California law extends immunity to
"communications made in the initiation or course of any
proceedings authorized by law such as peer
review/credentialing proceedings." Id. at pg.
20. CHOC asserts that California law also extends immunity to
"any communication which is not a lie and is intended in
good faith to aid in the evaluation of the qualifications,
fitness, and/or character of a physician." Id.
at pg. 21. Id. at pg. 40. CHOC contends that
California law extends immunity to "communications made
in the ...