Green-LaRoche v. Boston University Neurology Associates, Inc., 091819 MASUP, 1784CV02040

Docket Nº:1784CV02040
Opinion Judge:Jackie Cowin, Associate Justice of the Superior Court
Party Name:Deborah GREEN-LAROCHE, M.D. v. BOSTON UNIVERSITY NEUROLOGY ASSOCIATES, INC. et al.
Case Date:September 18, 2019
Court:Superior Court of Massachusetts
 
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Deborah GREEN-LAROCHE, M.D.

v.

BOSTON UNIVERSITY NEUROLOGY ASSOCIATES, INC. et al.

No. 1784CV02040

Superior Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk

September 18, 2019

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (P#22)

Jackie Cowin, Associate Justice of the Superior Court

The plaintiff, Deborah Green-LaRoche ("Green-LaRoche"), alleges gender discrimination and a litany of tort violations by her former supervisors, defendants James Holsapple ("Holsapple"), Carlos Kase ("Kase"), and Ravin Davidoff ("Davidoff"), while she was employed as a neurologist and professor by defendants Boston University Neurology Associates, Inc. ("BUNA"), Boston Medical Center Corporation ("BMC"), and Boston University School of Medicine ("BUSM"). The defendants have moved for summary judgment on all claims in the Complaint. After a hearing, for the reasons discussed below, the defendants’ motion is ALLOWED.

BACKGROUND

The facts set forth below are derived from the parties’ Rule 9A(b)(5) Consolidated Statement of Facts, additional facts set forth in the plaintiff’s opposition memorandum, where such facts are supported by material in the record, see Rule 9A(b)(5)(iii)(B), and the Court’s own review of the summary judgment record. In some instances, plaintiff has denied facts set forth by the defendants in the Statement of Facts without reference to supporting evidence, as is required. See Mass.R.Civ.P. 56(e) (adverse party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but ... must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial) and Rule 9A(b)(5)(iii)(A). Although not all of these facts are material to summary judgment, the Court has deemed the facts that are not properly denied as admitted. Where plaintiff has properly disputed facts set forth by the defendants, the Court has viewed these facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. The Court has reserved some facts for the Discussion section, below.

BMC is a teaching hospital affiliated with BUSM. BUNA is a corporation that employs neurologists to work at BMC and BUSM.1 Holsapple (Chief of Neurosurgery), Kase (Chairman of Neurology), and Davidoff (Chief Medical Officer) are physicians at BMC and professors at BUSM.

By letter dated April 2, 2008, Kase offered Green-LaRoche a position at BMC and BUSM. SOF 1; Ex. 7.2 Her primary responsibility was to be establishing a clinical practice in neurological ethical care at BMC. Ex. 7. The letter also stated that Kase would recommend Green-LaRoche for appointment to the rank of Associate Professor at BUSM, subject to the approval of the Boston University Board of Trustees. Id. A follow-up letter dated May 6, 2008 stated that Green-LaRoche would receive seven weeks of vacation time each year; one nurse practitioner would be hired to assist her; and there were "plans" to hire a second nurse practitioner. Ex. 8. These letters appear to have been incorporated into the employment agreement that Green-LaRoche and Kase ultimately signed. Ex. 23. Green-LaRoche began working at BMC on November 1, 2008.

The contract documents do not specify what Green-LaRoche’s clinical title at BMC would be. Exs. 7, 8, 23. Nonetheless, plaintiff alleges that Kase promised her that she would be Director of Neurological Intensive Care, and that within one to two years, BMC would open a Neurological Intensive Care Unit ("Neuro ICU") and name her Director of the Neuro ICU. Ex. 1 at 53-56. When she began her employment, Green-LaRoche was given the title of Director of Neurological Intensive Care, and she used the title on her emails and business cards. Id.

Also when she joined BMC, Green-LaRoche was given the rank of Clinical Associate Professor, a "lesser" title than Associate Professor. SOF 5. She subsequently discovered that Kase had not provided the Board of Trustees with documentation of all her achievements in the field of neurosurgery. Ex. 1 at 26-27, 30.

Green-LaRoche’s Neurological Intensive Care team consisted of herself, Dr. Joseph Burns ("Burns"), and Dr. Anna Cervantes-Arslanian ("Cervantes"). SOF 29. The team was understaffed and overworked, having to cover five intensive care units in two buildings, which did not have to be done by any other intensive care team at the facility. Ex. 1 at 15-16. Green-LaRoche was the only female director of an intensive care team at BMC (the record does not reveal how many such teams were at BMC). Ex. 1 at 16. Green-LaRoche was also required to be on call every three weeks, whereas her offer of employment stated she would only have to be on call every four or five weeks. Ex. 1 at 9.

On August 1, 2013, Kase and Holsapple jointly recommended to the Board of Trustees that Green-LaRoche be elevated to the rank of Associate Professor. SOF 18. On December 10, 2013, they were advised that the Trustees were unlikely to promote Green-LaRoche at that time, citing a perceived list of deficiencies in her work history. SOF 20. Kase and Holsapple made no attempt to provide further information about Green-LaRoche’s work history to the Trustees. Ex. 1 at 27-30.

Sometime in 2013, Burns received a bonus and Green-Laroche did not, even though she exceeded the requirements for the bonus. SOF 22; Ex. 1 at 14. Cervantes, the other female on the Neurological Intensive Care team, also received the bonus. SOF 23.

In late 2013, five years after Green-LaRoche began working at BMC, BMC opened a Neuro ICU, within the already-existing Surgical Intensive Care Unit ("SICU"). The SICU was headed by Dr. Gerardo Rodriguez ("Rodriguez"). SOF 6, 9.

In January 2014, Kase promulgated a new on-call schedule. When Green-LaRoche objected, Kase told her that she could "take it or leave it." SOF 24; Ex. 1 at 11. Burns also objected to the schedule and was also told he had to adhere to it. SOF 25; Ex. 6 at 25.

Also in January 2014, Kase told Burns and Cervantes to report to him instead of Green-LaRoche. SOF, 26. In February 2014, Holsapple directed that orders from neurointensivists (such as the members of Green-LaRoche’s team) be reviewed by the neurosurgery team before they were implemented. SOF 28.

On February 10, 2014, Davidoff wrote to Green-LaRoche, informing her that she would be named Director of the new Neuro ICU. Ex. 26. Green-LaRoche’s appointment as Neuro ICU Director was not publicly announced.

Beds in the NICU/SICU were limited, and at times, decisions had to be made as to which patients would be assigned beds in the unit. Because Rodriguez’ anesthesiology team maintained 24/7 coverage in the SICU, Davidoff informed plaintiff in a February 10, 2014 email that, if she and Rodriguez could not agree on which patients would be assigned beds in the unit, then Rodriguez, "or whomever has the role of SICU Director," would be the point of contact to discuss the issue with Davidoff. The arrangement did not affect decisions regarding patient care, or require Green-LaRoche to report to Rodriguez. SOF 10; Ex. 26. Green-LaRoche replied to Davidoff’s email, agreeing to this procedure.[3] Ex. 26.

In March 2014, Green-LaRoche attended a meeting in which Holsapple stated that Burns was the only "rational" person on the Neurological Intensive Care team. Ex. 1 at 10.

In March or April 2014, Kase told Green-LaRoche to "be quiet" in a meeting regarding a patient. Green-LaRoche had never heard Kase tell a male colleague to be quiet. Ex. 1 at 24-25.

In March and April 2014, Green-LaRoche interviewed for a position at Tufts Medical Center, and between May and August 2014, she negotiated the terms of an employment contract with Tufts. Green-LaRoche signed an employment contract with Tufts on August 3, 2014, effective in January 2015. Green-LaRoche did not inform anyone at BMC that she was considering taking a position at Tufts, or that she had taken the position. SOF 33-37, 39.

On June 25, 2014, Kase met with...

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