Kaul v. Christie

Decision Date25 February 2019
Docket NumberCiv. No. 16-2364 (KM) (SCM)
Citation372 F.Supp.3d 206
Parties Richard Arjun KAUL, Plaintiff, v. Christoper J. CHRISTIE, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of New Jersey

Richard Arjun Kaul, M.D., Palisades Park, NJ, pro se.

Lewis Stein, Esq., Morristown, NJ, pro se.

Daniel Michael Vannella, Office of the NJ Attorney General, Robert J. McGuire, New Jersey Attorney General, Trenton, NJ, David D'Aloia, Saiber, LLC, Florham Park, NJ, Geri L. Albin, Saiber LLC, Sandra B. Saunders, Office of the General Counsel, Thomas Joseph Cafferty, Gibbons, P.C., Liza M. Walsh, Marc D. Haefner, Walsh Pizzi O'Reilly Falanga LLP, Newark, NJ, John J. Robertelli, Gene Y. Kang, Rivkin Radler LLP, Hackensack, NJ, William T. Marshall, Jr., Zeichner Ellman & Krause LLP, Stewart M. Leviss, Berkowitz, Lichtstein, Kuritsky, Giasullo & Gross, LLP, Roseland, NJ, Edward Sponzilli, Bridgewater, NJ, Erdal Ayhan Turnacioglu, O'Toole Scrivo Fernandez Weiner Van Lieu, LLC, Cedar Grove, NJ, Elizabeth Rolande Gorman, David J. Montag, Milber, Makris, Plousadis & Seiden, LLP, Rochelle Park, NJ, Sophia Ashley Perna, Milber, Makris, Plousadis & Seiden, LLP, Woodbury, NY, Glen Austin Sproviero, Joanna Rebecca Cohen, Ellenoff Grossman & Schole LLP, New York, NY, Kenneth M. Brown, Weber Gallagher Simpson Stapleton Fires & Newby LLP, Bedminster, NJ, Jeffrey Daniel Noonan, Sr., Pomeroy, Heller & Ley, LLC, New Providence, NJ, Richard Malagiere, Law Offices Of Richard Malagiere, P.C., Moonachie, NJ, for Defendant.

AMENDED OPINION (amending DE 200)

KEVIN MCNULTY, United States District JudgeDr. Richard A. Kaul, an anesthesiologist by training, claims to be a minimally invasive spine surgeon. In March 2014, the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners (the "Board") said otherwise. Because his performance of spine surgeries on 11 patients without proper training and experience constituted gross and repeated malpractice, negligence, and incompetence, the Board revoked his medical license. From Dr. Kaul's perspective, the disciplinary proceedings were nothing but a sham. What really happened, he says, is that a network of politically connected neurosurgeons wanted to make an example of him. His high-quality medical practice was cutting into their margins, and so with the assistance of a cabal of lawyers, hospitals, insurance companies, and media figures, they importuned public officials to banish him from the practice of medicine in New Jersey. And so Dr. Kaul brought this action against some forty-odd defendants.

Now before the court are dozens of motions to dismiss, which in general will be granted. In part, the motions are granted under Rule 12(b)(1), on grounds of lack of subject matter jurisdiction. For the most part, however, dismissal is on 12(b)(6) grounds, because the amended complaint fails to allege plausibly any cause of action as to any defendant.

I. BACKGROUND

The gist of the amended complaint ("AC") is that the entire medical, legal, and political ("medico-legal", in Dr. Kaul's words) community of New Jersey conspired to revoke Dr. Kaul's license. No surprise, then, that Dr. Kaul's list of grievances contained in this 101-page AC is exhaustive. To begin to untangle the thick knot of private citizens, professional organizations, law firms, attorneys, administrators, politicians, and public officials alleged to have been in on the scheme to deprive Dr. Kaul of his license, this introductory section proceeds in five subparts.

Part I.A is a summary of the parties involved and the nature of the allegations against them. Part LB summarizes the license revocation proceedings. Because it is relevant to res judicata and Younger abstention issues, Part I.C describes some actions related to this one. Part I.D concludes this background section with some information about the procedural history and claims asserted in this case.

A. The Parties

As I must, I accept as true Dr. Kaul's allegations for the purpose of these motions to dismiss.1

1. Dr. Kaul

Dr. Kaul went to medical school in London and completed his residency here, at Albert Einstein-Montefiore Medical Center in New York. He became a board-certified anesthesiologist. In 2003, the Board suspended Dr. Kaul's license to practice medicine; in 2012, they revoked it entirely and permanently. These incidents, and others, are discussed below, but the takeaway for now is this: The AC claims that the 2012 disciplinary proceedings were the result of a vast conspiracy between the Governor, hospitals, insurance companies, lawyers, and competitors to drive Dr. Kaul, a minimally invasive spine surgery pioneer, out of business. (See generally AC)

2. Defendants

For convenience, I group the defendants into eight categories.

i. The State Defendants

The New Jersey Attorney General's Office represents these nine defendants in this case:

• The Board, which is responsible for licensing and censuring New Jersey doctors. (AC ¶ 35)
Christopher J., Christie, who is the Governor of the State of New Jersey. Allegedly, he was moved to revoke Dr. Kaul's medical license by a series of kickback and quid pro quo arrangements with the other defendants. (Id. ¶ 3, 54)
Jeffrey Chiesa is the former Attorney General ("AG") of the State of New Jersey. Chiesa was AG when the Board revoked Dr. Kaul's license. As to Chiesa, the thrust of the AC is that he allowed the 2012 revocation hearings to unfold unfairly. Particularly distressing to Dr. Kaul is Chiesa's failure to investigate the alteration of unidentified portions of certain transcripts of the administrative proceedings. (Id. ¶ 4, 57, 210)
Howard Solomon is the Administrative Law Judge who presided over Dr. Kaul's 2012 disciplinary proceedings. Following a 23-day hearing, he issued a 94-page opinion. ALJ Solomon concluded that Dr. Kaul's performance of spine surgeries on 11 patients constituted gross malpractice and recommended that the Board revoke his medical license. An article he read about Dr. Kaul in a Bergen County newspaper, the Record, allegedly influenced his decision.
(See generally ALJ Op.; AC ¶¶ 59-60, 97)
William Roeder is executive director of the Board.2 (Id. ¶ 36)
Dr. Steven Lomazow is a neurologist and was a senior member of the Board in 2012. (Id. ¶ 15)
Dr. Gregory Przybylski is a neurologist. He testified as an expert witness for the State in the 2012 disciplinary proceedings, falsely. (Id. ¶¶ 28, 85, 160)
Dr. Andrew Kaufman, an anesthesiologist, also testified as an expert witness for the State in those proceedings. At some point, he made false statements that Dr. Kaul was not qualified to perform minimally invasive spine surgeries, perhaps during the 2012 disciplinary proceedings. (ALJ Op. 41-44; AC ¶¶ 34, 67, 85).
• Dr. Kaul is also suing the State of New Jersey. (AC ¶ 4)
ii. The Doctor Defendants

The following seven defendants are surgeons (though the AC isn't always clear, I presume they are neurosurgeons) in New Jersey. For the most part, Dr. Kaul claims that they are his jealous competitors, and thus stood to benefit from his ruin.

Dr. Robert Heary consulted with one of Dr. Kaul's patients and encouraged her to sue Dr. Kaul for medical malpractice. (Id. ¶ 13, 68)
Dr. Frank Moore is a professor of neurosurgery at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. (Id. ¶ 17)3
Dr. Peter Carmel is a co-director of neurosurgery at the Neurological Institute of New Jersey in Newark. Dr. Carmel used his authority as President of the American Medical Association ("AMA") to enact legislation that favored neurosurgeons and hospitals and downgrade the value of endoscopic discectomies. (Id. ¶¶ 18, 72, 80, 92)
Dr. William Mitchell is the attending neurosurgeon at John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison, New Jersey. He, too, caused endoscopic discectomies to become less profitable, which reduced Dr. Kaul's revenues. (Id. ¶¶ 20, 73)
Dr. Thomas Peterson is also a neurosurgeon and affiliated in some way with Hackensack University Medical Center ("HUMC"). Dr. Peterson once called Dr. Kaul a "murderer" in front of one of Dr. Kaul's employees. (Id. ¶¶ 21, 90, 176)
Dr. Peter Staats is the President of The American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians ("ASIPP") and the editor of Pain Medicine News. He has "devoted a large percentage of career to medical politics." (Id. ¶¶ 22, 74)
Dr. Marc Cohen sent a complaint about Dr. Kaul performing spine surgeries to the Board in 2007. (Id. ¶¶ 23, 75)
iii. The Hospital Defendants

Dr. Kaul's allegations as to these five defendants, hospitals and their presidents, are generally similar, so I group them together. (E.g. AC ¶¶ 118, 147, 176, 205, 235, 260, 293) He claims that these defendants compete with surgical centers, such as the one Dr. Kaul ran, and therefore had reason to divert business from him to themselves.

Atlantic Health System ("AHS") is a healthcare company comprised of number of hospitals, including Morristown Medical Center, Overlook Medical Center, Chilton Medical Center, and Hackettstown Medical Center. Drs. Cohen, Heary, Carmel, Lomazow, and Kaufman "do business" with AHS. (AC ¶ 11)
Brian Gragnolati became the president of AHS on May 4, 2015. (Id. ¶ 42, Def. Ex. V ¶ 14)
Hackensack University Medical Center ("HUMC") is hospital. Drs. Peters and Heary "do business" with HUMC. (Id. ¶ 11)
Robert Garrett is the president of HUMC. (Id. ¶ 41)
University Hospital, incorrectly pled as Rutgers School of Biomedical and Health Sciences, is a hospital affiliated with Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Drs. Heary, Carmel, and Kaufman "do business" with University Hospital. (Id. ¶ 12)
James Gonzalez is the president of University Hospital. Gonzalez allegedly failed to take appropriate action after Dr. Kaul sent Gonzalez a letter describing an incident in which Dr. Kaufman defamed him to one of his patients. (Id. ¶ 39)
iv. The Medical Organization Defendants

The following four medical organizations (plus Dr. Wolfa, the chairman of one) are involved in this case. Dr. Kaul generally attributes the wrongful...

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