Harris v. New York State Dept. of Health

Citation202 F.Supp.2d 143
Decision Date24 April 2002
Docket NumberNo. 01-CIV. 3343.,01-CIV. 3343.
PartiesMonroe S. HARRIS, Plaintiff, v. NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of New York

J. Clayton Culotta, Kenneth J. Haber, Law Office of Kenneth Joel Haber, P.C., Rockville, MD, Don D. Buchwald, Law Office of Don Buchwald, L.L.P., New York City, for Plaintiff.

Leonard Arthur Cohen, Attorney General of the State of New York, New York City, for Defendant.


MARRERO, District Judge.

Plaintiff Monroe S. Harris ("Harris") brought this action challenging the revocation by defendant New York State Department of Health ("DOH" or the "State") of his medical license by reason of various charges of professional misconduct, including instances of incompetent and grossly negligent patient care, fraudulent reporting and failure to maintain proper records. Harris claims that DOH's action failed to make accommodations for his alleged learning and attention deficit disabilities, thereby discriminating against him in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the "ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq., and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (the "Rehabilitation Act" or "§ 504"), 29 U.S.C. § 794, et seq. Harris also asserts violations of his federal constitutional due process and statutory rights protected by 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

The State moved pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) to dismiss Harris's First Amended Complaint on the grounds that the claims there asserted are barred by doctrines precluding federal district court appellate review or relitigation of matters already adjudicated in state courts, as well as by the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. For the reasons set forth below the motion to dismiss is granted.


Different legal standards govern a court's review of motions to dismiss made pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). On a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), it is a court's duty to resolve disputed jurisdictional facts. See Cargill International S.A. v. M/T Pavel Dybenko, 991 F.2d 1012, 1019 (2d Cir.1993); see also Ruhrgas A.G. v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 583, 119 S.Ct. 1563, 143 L.Ed.2d 760 (1999); Lyndonville Savings Bank & Trust Co. v. Lussier, 211 F.3d 697, 700 (2d Cir.2000) ("[F]ailure of subject matter jurisdiction is not waivable and may be raised at any time by a party or the court sua sponte."). A court may fulfill its duty by reference to evidence outside the pleadings. See Zappia Middle East Construction Co. v. Emirate of Abu Dhabi, 215 F.3d 247, 253 (2d Cir.2000). Furthermore, in resolving a challenge to subject matter jurisdiction, a court does not draw inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Newsom-Lang v. Warren International, 129 F.Supp.2d 662, 663-64 (S.D.N.Y.2001).

A district court may grant a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) only if it appears beyond doubt that the non-moving party could prove no set of facts that would entitle it to relief. See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 81 L.Ed.2d 59 (1984); Valmonte v. Bane, 18 F.3d 992, 998 (2d Cir.1994). In reviewing the pleadings, a court must accept the non-moving party's well-pleaded factual allegations as true. See Hishon, 467 U.S. at 73, 104 S.Ct. 2229; Dove v. Fordham, 56 F.Supp.2d 330, 335 (S.D.N.Y.1999). Furthermore, a court may consider documents attached to the complaint as exhibits, or incorporated by reference, as well as any documents that are integral to, or explicitly referenced in, the pleading. See Stuto v. Fleishman, 164 F.3d 820, 826 n. 1 (2d Cir.1991); Ciambriello v. County of Nassau, 137 F.Supp.2d 216, 222 (E.D.N.Y. 2001).


Harris alleges that from childhood on and continuing throughout his life he has suffered from learning disabilities, of which he was not fully aware until recently, that caused him substantial difficulties at all schools he attended. Despite these impediments, Harris asserts, he graduated from medical school in 1963 and one year later was issued a license to practice medicine and surgery in New York State, where he was board certified in the areas of family practice, geriatric and bariatric medicine. For over thirty years he maintained a practice in Queens County, New York, and held staff privileges at five separate hospitals. Beginning 1989 Harris experienced difficulties with various New York State regulatory agencies and was the subject of several administrative proceedings detailed below.1


In 1992, following an audit commenced in 1989 by the DOH's Bureau of Controlled Substances ("BCS"), Harris entered into a stipulation with the BCS (the "BCS Stipulation") in which he acknowledged that he had made errors in storing and dispensing controlled substances at his medical office in Queens, New York, in violation of Article 33 ("Article 33") of the State's Public Health Law ("PHL"). Two years later, allegedly prompted by the BCS audit of Harris, BPMC commenced a formal investigation of Harris for professional misconduct. In this connection, in September 1994 Harris and the DOH's Office of Professional Medical Conduct ("OPMC") stipulated to a Consent Order (the "Consent Order") in which Harris admitted to violations of Article 33.2 By terms of the Consent Order, Harris was fined, put on probation, his license placed on stayed suspension for two years and he was required to file quarterly audits. Harris's license was reinstated in October 1994.


On three separate occasions between September 1990 and September 1992 Harris filed applications for reappointment to various hospitals where he held privileges to practice medicine. In each case, while the BCS investigation remained pending, he responded "No" to a question on the application inquiring whether he was the subject of any disciplinary action. Again in May 1994, in a similar application for medical practice privileges at another hospital, Harris failed to disclose that he had signed the BCS Stipulation in 1992.

In a reappointment application he filed at the Catholic Medical Center in September, 1994 he omitted to disclose that he had been disciplined by BCS and that just days before he had executed the Consent Order with OPMC agreeing to the stayed suspension and other sanctions. In March 1996, as a consequence of an inquiry by the Catholic Medical Center which revealed the 1994 Consent Order, Harris's appointment renewal to practice at the hospital was denied. Subsequently, in his application in November, 1996, to the State Department of Education for renewal of his medical license he failed to acknowledge that his practice privileges at a hospital had been terminated in March, 1996.


In October, 1998, BPMC filed a Statement of Charges (the "Statement of Charges")3 against Harris. It alleged several counts of misconduct arising from Harris's reappointment applications, including fraudulent practice, moral unfitness, and making or filing false reports, as well as negligence, incompetence and failing to maintain records in connection with his medical practice. (See Statements of Charges at ¶¶ A-F.) The counts regarding negligence and incompetence on more than one occasion allege Harris's failure to perform adequate medical examinations, to provide proper treatment and prescribe appropriate drugs, and to maintain accurate records related to the care he rendered to three specific patients, referred to as Patients A, B and C. (See id. at ¶ G-I.)

A hearing by a BPMC committee was conducted in November and December, 1998. In this connection, Harris introduced the testimony of Dr. Steven Migden ("Migden"), a clinical psychologist Harris retained to examine him in preparation for the BPMC hearing. Migden testified at the December hearing that Harris suffered from certain learning disabilities, including disorders of written expression and dyslexia and possibly attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ("ADHD") and that further testing was necessary to rule out dementia. He asserted that these disabilities "might" have caused Harris to misunderstand or be confused by the hospital reappointment application forms he had filed. (See BPMC Order at 7.)

At the conclusion of the hearing in February 1999 the BPMC issued its ruling and Order. It sustained the six charges of fraudulent practice and six charges of making or filing false statements. The BPMC rejected as "implausible" Harris's contention, as suggested by Migden, that his learning disabilities might have caused him to misunderstand and be confused by the questions on the hospital reappointment applications. (See id.) The BPMC hearing committee, noting that at the 1996 Catholic Medical Center reappointment hearings Harris offered several reasons to explain the manner in which he answered the applications as he did, stressed that "[a]t no time did he claim that he was confused due to a learning disability." (Id. at 8.)

The BPMC also upheld the specifications charging negligence on more than one occasion and incompetence on more than one occasion arising from Harris's medical care of Patients A and C.4 The findings as to Patient A indicate that Harris failed to make an adequate physical examination, to make a proper diagnosis of the patient's condition and to maintain proper records of treatment. Moreover, Harris inappropriately prescribed an appetite suppressant drug to Patient A for nine years even though the patient was not overweight. (Id. at 11-12.) As regards Patient C, the BPMC found that Harris's treatment constituted gross negligence, specifically in prescribing to a patient with a history of heart disease a drug contraindicated for persons suffering from such condition. With respect to the counts alleging failure to maintain...

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