California Court of Appeals, Second District, Second Division
NOVARRO C. STAFFORD, Plaintiff and Respondent,
ATTENDING STAFF ASSOCIATION OF LAC USC MEDICAL CENTER, Defendant and Appellant.
from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County.
No. BS160519, Mary H. Strobel, Judge.
D. Harwell for Defendant and Appellant.
Trolard for Plaintiff and Respondent.
Attending Staff Association of LAC USC Medical Center
(Association) appeals from a judgment granting a writ of
mandamus against it. Respondent Novarro C. Stafford is a
physician whose clinical privileges were terminated by the
Association. Stafford requested an administrative hearing.
The administrative process began, but the Association
subsequently took the position that Stafford withdrew or
abandoned his right to an administrative hearing through his
communications and conduct and by filing an unsuccessful
action in superior court.
filed a petition for a writ of mandate seeking an order
directing the Association to complete Stafford's
administrative proceeding. The trial court granted the
petition. We affirm.
Association argues that, because Stafford filed an action in
superior court before concluding the administrative appeal
process, he forfeited his administrative remedy as a matter
of law. The argument misinterprets the doctrine of exhaustion
of administrative remedies. That doctrine precludes premature
lawsuits; it does not mean that filing a premature lawsuit
necessarily waives an administrative remedy.
Association also makes the factual argument that Stafford
withdrew his request for an administrative hearing. The trial
court found against the Association on that claim. That
finding is supported by substantial evidence, and we
therefore must affirm.
The Suspension of Stafford's Clinical Privileges
is an anesthesiologist who was employed by the County of Los
Angeles (County), working at the LAC USC Medical Center
(Medical Center). At the time of the relevant events Stafford
was over 80 years old and had enjoyed staff privileges at the
Medical Center for over 30 years. The Association is
responsible for providing such privileges.
September 16, 2013, a female patient filed a written
complaint claiming that Stafford had acted inappropriately
and made her feel uncomfortable during an examination. On
February 7, 2014, the Director of Health Services of Los
Angeles County informed Stafford by letter that his clinical
privileges had been summarily suspended “[i]n accord
with the bylaws of the... Association.” The stated
reason was “to reduce the substantial likelihood of
imminent impairment to patient health and safety.”
Stafford received a “referral to the Well-Being
Committee and requirement of a neurocognitive examination, to
be completed no later than sixty days and coordinated through
the Well-Being Committee.”
Association subsequently terminated Stafford's privileges
on the ground that he failed to submit a timely
neurocognitive evaluation. Stafford appealed the decision and
requested an administrative hearing.
Initiation of the Administrative Proceedings
September 2014, James Lahana was appointed as hearing officer
for the administrative hearing. Counsel for Stafford and for
the Association corresponded concerning voir dire of Lahana
and various discovery issues.
November 2014, Stafford requested retirement from the County.
November 2014, new counsel for Stafford, Steven Trolard,
wrote to the Association advising it that Stafford intended
to file a civil suit. Trolard claimed that the
Association's failure to schedule a prompt hearing was a
breach of its bylaws, permitting recourse to the court.
participated in voir dire, but subject to an objection
“to the subject matter jurisdiction of the peer review
procedure itself.” Trolard's e-mail explaining his
objection stated, “I do not see any requirement that
Dr. Stafford subject himself to the peer review process
before a civil suit can be filed since Dr. Stafford has taken
March 26, 2015, Trolard sent several e-mails to the
Association's counsel, John Harwell. Trolard's first
e-mail requested an appointment to see Stafford's
employment file, proposing a date of April 7, 2015, for the
inspection. A follow-up e-mail changed the proposed date to
April 15, 2015. In the follow-up e-mail, Trolard also stated,
“In our last meeting you said you would be dismissing