Hedrick v. Univ. of Ark. for Med. Scis.

Decision Date05 September 2019
Docket NumberCase No. 4:18-cv-944-KGB
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Arkansas

Plaintiff Madison Hedrick brings this action against defendant Dr. Appalanaidu Sasapu alleging a state law claim of outrage and against the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences by and through the Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas (collectively, "UAMS") alleging a claim of sex discrimination and retaliation under Title IX, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a). UAMS filed a motion to dismiss Ms. Hedrick's complaint which is pending before the Court (Dkt. No. 8). Ms. Hedrick filed a motion for extension of time to file her response in opposition to UAMS's motion (Dkt. No. 11), which the Court grants. The Court considers her response to be timely filed and has considered her response in ruling on the pending motion (Dkt. No. 12). UAMS filed a reply in support of its motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 14). For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants UAMS's motion to dismiss Ms. Hedrick's claims against UAMS and declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claim of outrage Ms. Hedrick alleges against Dr. Sasapu (Dkt. No. 8).

I. Background

The following facts are taken from Ms. Hedrick's complaint. In her complaint, Ms. Hedrick states she was an employee of UAMS working as an editor and writer in the Science Communications Group during all relevant time periods (Dkt. No. 1, at 1). The complaint states that Dr. Sasapu is a hematologist practicing medicine at the UAMS Little Rock campus (Id.). Ms. Hedrick alleges that she saw Dr. Sasapu to treat a medical condition and that, during three separate exams performed without a nurse or other female present, he "touched [her] in a sexually inappropriate manner . . . ." (Id., at 2). The day after the third exam, March 29, 2018, Ms. Hedrick reported the behavior in detail to UAMS Human Resources via a letter, which is attached to the complaint (Id., at 2, 5-7).

Attached to the complaint is a printout of the letter Ms. Hedrick filed with the "Senior HR Director of Employee Relations" on March 29, 2018 (Dkt. No. 1, at 5-7). See Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(c) ("A copy of any written instrument that is an exhibit to a pleading is part of the pleading for all purposes."). The letter describes her employment at UAMS and Dr. Sasapu's allegedly inappropriate behavior during her three exams with him (Id.). Ms. Hedrick's letter alleges that Dr. Sasapu, during the first exam, "probe[d] under her clothing" without anyone else present, asked her to disrobe but did not leave the examining room until asked, rubbed her upper leg and thigh, touched her breasts, and squeezed her nipples (Id., at 5-6). Ms. Hedrick's letter further alleges that Dr. Sasapu, during the second exam, raised up her dress, reached his hands down Ms. Hedrick's pants and various other garments, and touched her labia to "look for lymph nodes." (Id., at 6). Ms. Hedrick's letter explains that she then sat up, at which point Dr. Sasapu offered to get a nurse or drape if Ms. Hedrick felt uncomfortable (Dkt. No. 1, at 6). A nurse then entered the room and "seemed upset" and "mentioned something about how the room was not in use and there was not supposed to be a patient in there . . . ." (Id.). Ms. Hedrick's letter states that she then sought out a physician at Arkansas Children's Hospital ("ACH") to treat her condition instead (Id.). Ms. Hedrick did not schedule a third exam with Dr. Sasapu; instead, a nurse told her that Dr. Sasapuwanted to see her before he would refer her to another provider (Id.). Ms. Hedrick's letter states that she went to her third exam and that she "recorded the contact he had with me . . . ." (Dkt. No. 1, at 7). Ms. Hedrick's letter asserts that, during the third exam, Dr. Sasapu "lay [Ms. Hedrick] back and forcefully unbuttoned [her] dress and then began to touch and look at [her] breasts despite [her] telling him there was nothing wrong with [her] breasts." (Id.).

A representative of UAMS responded via letter on April 24, 2018, and a copy of that letter is also attached to the complaint (Id., at 8). UAMS's response letter states that, on April 5, 2018, Ms. Hedrick's letter was forwarded to Hospital Administration "because [UAMS] consider[ed] the concerns [Ms. Hedrick] raised to be a grievance related to the medical care you received rather than a human resources issue." (Id.). The letter further states that "a peer review committee was assigned to investigate your concerns." (Dkt. No. 1, at 8). According to UAMS's letter, the committee's investigation included a review of Ms. Hedrick's letter, the provided videotape of Ms. Hedrick's third exam, and interviews with Dr. Sasapu and other employees who may have had relevant information (Id.). The committee determined that the physical exams Dr. Sasapu performed were appropriate for the symptoms Ms. Hedrick had described (Id.).

In her complaint, Ms. Hedrick asserts that she "still had to see Dr. Sasapu on the UAMS campus" and "has been forced to find alternate medical care for her conditions." (Id., at 2). Furthermore, Ms. Hedrick's complaint alleges that, because her complaints about inappropriate sexual behavior on the part of Dr. Sasapu were dismissed and not believed, she has been constructively discharged from her position at UAMS (Dkt. No. 1, at 2).

II. Motion To Dismiss

For the following reasons, the Court concludes that Ms. Hedrick's complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Accordingly, the Court grants UAMS's motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (Dkt. No. 8).

A. Standard Of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) provides that a pleading must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). The purpose of this Rule is "to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests . . . ." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotation and citation omitted). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A claim is facially plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

"While a complaint attacked by a [Federal] Rule [of Civil Procedure] 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (alteration in original) (citations omitted). "When ruling on a motion to dismiss, the district court must accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true and all reasonable inferences from the complaint must be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party." Young v. City of St. Charles, 244 F.3d 623, 627 (8th Cir. 2001). A complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim under Federal Ruleof Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) if "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of [her] claim which would entitle [her] to relief." In re K-tel Int'l Sec. Litig., 300 F.3d 881, 904 (8th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted).

B. Discussion

The Court concludes that Ms. Hedrick's complaint fails to state both a claim of sex discrimination and a claim of retaliation under Title IX, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a) against UAMS upon which relief can be granted. Title IX prohibits sex discrimination by educational programs that are recipients of federal funds. Jackson v. Birmingham Bd. of Educ., 544 U.S. 167, 173 (2005). Title IX provides that "[n]o person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a).

In Jackson, the Supreme Court held that Title IX implies a private right of action to enforce its prohibition on intentional sex discrimination and authorizes private parties to seek monetary damages for intentional violations of Title IX. Id.; see Franklin v. Gwinnett Cty. Public Schools, 503 U.S. 60, 76 (1992); Cannon v. Univ. of Chicago, 441 U.S. 677, 690-93 (1979). The Supreme Court recognized that the private right of action under Title IX encompasses intentional sex discrimination where a recipient of federal funds is deliberately indifferent to a teacher's sexual harassment of a student or sexual harassment of a student by another student and where a recipient of federal funds retaliates against an individual because that individual complained about sex discrimination. Jackson, 544 U.S. at 171-73 (citing Gebser v. Lago Vista Independent School Dist., 524 U.S. 274, 290-91 (1998); Davis v. Monroe County Bd. of Ed., 526 U.S. 629, 642 (1999)). Additionally, the Supreme Court recognized an implied right of action for "[e]mployees who directly participate in federal programs or who directly benefit from federal grants, loans, orcontracts" when challenging the validity of administrative regulations that discriminate on the basis of sex in employment practices. See North Haven Bd. of Educ. v. Bell, 456 U.S. 512, 520 (1982).

Here, Ms. Hedrick's complaints against Dr. Sasapu center around his medical examinations of her in a clinical setting; her allegations involve conduct that occurred between a doctor and patient. Ms. Hedrick was not interacting with Dr....

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