California Court of Appeals, Second District, Second Division
Novarro C. STAFFORD, Plaintiff and Respondent,
ATTENDING STAFF ASSOCIATION OF LAC + U.S.C. MEDICAL CENTER, Defendant and Appellant.
Cal.Rptr.3d 371] APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court
of Los Angeles County. Mary H. Strobel, Judge. Affirmed. (Los
Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BS160519)
Harwell, Manhattan Beach, for Defendant and Appellant.
Trolard for Plaintiff and Respondent.
Attending Staff Association of LAC + U.S.C. 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.
Stafford 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.
1. The Suspension of Stafford’s Clinical
Stafford is an anesthesiologist who was employed by the
County of Los Angeles (County), working at the LAC + U.S.C.
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 [254 Cal.Rptr.3d 372] 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
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.
2. Initiation of the Administrative
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.
in November 2014, new counsel for Stafford, Steven Trolard,
wrote to the Association advising it that Stafford ...