United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
Robert J. Robinson, M.D., Plaintiff,
Carealliance Health Services d/b/a Raper St. Francis Healthcare; Bon Secours St. Francis Xavier Hospital, Inc.; Franklin C. Fetter Family Health Center, Inc.; Steven Shapiro, M.d.; Allen Carroll; and Laura Celia, Defendants.
RICHARD M. GERGEL, District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and Motion to Stay (Dkt. No. 46). As explained herein, the Court adopts only a portion of the Magistrate's Report and Recommendation ("R&R") and DENIES Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.
This case is a civil action filed by Plaintiff Robert Robinson, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist who, until 2013, provided delivery and other OB/GYN services to patients at Raper St. Francis Healthcare and Bon Secours St. Francis Xavier Hospital in Charleston, SC. He previously held Medical Staff Privileges at both hospitals, and has delivered thousands of babies and performed thousands of procedures at the two hospitals. R&R at 1-2. At the end of December 2012, Raper St. Francis Hospital closed its labor and delivery services, and all of Plaintiffs Raper St. Francis patients were thereafter treated at Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital (hereinafter "St. Francis Hospital"). (Dkt. No. 39 at 7).
On February 7, 2013, Plaintiff performed a complicated Caesarian delivery while sitting on a stool. According to multiple reports filed by medical staff, including another OB/GYN who assisted at the birth, Plaintiff was unable to properly view the surgical field he was operating in, and unable to properly handle the baby or address hemorrhaging after the delivery. R&R at 3; Dkt. Nos. 46-2, 46-3, 46-4. The patient later developed a serious infection. Id. Following this delivery, the Medical Executive Committee ("MEC"), which oversees medical professionals providing treatment at St. Francis Hospital, convened an ad hoc committee to review Plaintiff's competency. Upon the MEC's suggestion, delivered in a letter from Defendant Jeffrey Rieder, acting as Chairman of the MEC dated March 25, 2013 (Dkt. No. 46-2), Plaintiff took a six week medical leave of absence, and has since been involved in various attempts to regain his ability to practice medicine at both hospitals. According to his Second Amended Complaint, it is medically necessary, and reasonable in light of his duties at the hospital, that he deliver babies and complete other medical tasks from a stool, rather than standing, because of a 2012 foot fracture and surgical procedure stemming from his diabetic condition. (Dkt. No. 39 at 4-8).
Plaintiff filed suit on July 12, 2013. His amended complaint alleges one federal cause of action for violating of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). (Dkt. No. 39). The ADA claim alleges that under Title III of the ADA, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 12181-12189, St. Francis Hospital was obligated to provide Plaintiff with reasonable accommodation, in the form of allowing him to use a rolling stool and allowing nurses to carry babies for him, thus permitting him to use St. Francis' "public accommodations." He alleges that his medical privileges have been unfairly "jerked" on pretextual grounds, and that his livelihood is threatened by the hospital's refusal to allow him to practice medicine with the stool as an accommodation in violation of the ADA. The complaint also lists eight additional claims sounding in state tort and contract law. Id.
Magistrate Judge Dixon filed an R&R on August 5, 2014, recommending that the federal ADA claim be dismissed and the pendant state law claims dismissed without prejudice. Plaintiff is currently without counsel because his attorneys withdrew from the case after submitting the filings presently under consideration. Under the Fifth Amended Scheduling Order (Dkt. No. 89), discovery is due to end on October 15, 2014. Defendants submitted an objection to the R&R on August 18, 2014 (Dkt. No. 94) arguing that this Court should dismiss the state claims with prejudice rather than without prejudice.
A. Standard of Review
Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits the dismissal of an action if the complaint fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Such a motion tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint and "does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of the claim, or the applicability of defenses.... Our inquiry then is limited to whether the allegations constitute a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin , 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (quotation marks and citation omitted). In a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court is obligated to "assume the truth of all facts alleged in the complaint and the existence of any fact that can be proved, consistent with the complaint's allegations." E. Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd. P'ship , 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). However, while the Court must accept the facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, it "need not accept as true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments." Id.
To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must state "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Although the requirement of plausibility does not impose a probability requirement at this stage, the complaint must show more than a "sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A complaint has "facial plausibility" where the pleading "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.
The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility for making a final determination remains with this Court. Mathews v. Weber , 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). This Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the R&R to which specific objection is made. Additionally, the Court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). This Court may also "receive further evidence or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions." Id.
B. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act
Defendants argued that Plaintiff has failed to state a cognizable claim under Title III of the ADA because the services it provides Plaintiff - hospital facilities where he has practiced medicine for many years - are not "a place of public accommodation' within the contemplation of" the ADA. (Dkt. No. 36 at 14). In other words, Plaintiff has not alleged facts sufficient to show he meets a threshold requirement for ADA protection. A hospital is, of course, generally defined by the ADA as a place of public accommodation. 42 U.S.C. § 12181(7)(F). Defendants' position, though, is that because Plaintiff is a doctor engaging in medical treatment within the hospital, rather than being treated there, that the "medical staff and privileging decisions" regarding his presence there do not "fall within the goods, services, facilities, privileges, [or] advantages' offered to the public at large." (Dkt. No. 46 at 14). Defendants urge the Court to compare this situation to that of a 1997 Sixth Circuit case, Parker v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. , 121 F.3d 1006, where an employee insured through the employer's long-term disability plan was unsuccessful in bringing a claim under Title III because employee insurance plans are not "goods, services, facilities, privileges, ...