Selman v. Harvard Medical Sch.

Decision Date20 May 1980
Docket NumberNo. 79 Civ. 0816 (KTD).,79 Civ. 0816 (KTD).
Citation494 F. Supp. 603
PartiesBurton SELMAN, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, Plaintiff, v. HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of New York




Leon Dicker, New York City, for plaintiff.

Baer, Marks & Upham, New York City, for defendant Association of American Medical Colleges; Barry J. Mandel, New York City, of counsel.

Cahill, Gordon & Reindel, New York City, for defendants; Floyd Abrams, Patricia A. Pickrel, Susan Buckley, Stuart Altschuler, New York City, of counsel.



Plaintiff, Burton Selman, was a medical student at Universidad Autonama of Guadalajara, Mexico hereinafter referred to as "UAG" whose transfer applications to numerous medical schools in the United States were rejected. The instant action was instituted in February, 1979, against several United States medical schools,1 individual employees of those schools, and the Association of American Medical Colleges hereinafter referred to as "AAMC". Selman brought suit on behalf of himself as well as all similarly situated qualified applicants from foreign medical schools who applied for admission to defendant medical schools under the "Federal Transfer Program" and were rejected.

Defendants have jointly moved to dismiss the complaint on four grounds. First, defendants contend that subject matter jurisdiction is lacking as to all defendants. Second, it is alleged that personal jurisdiction is lacking as to several of the individual defendants who are California residents.2 Third, defendants argue that plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and to aver the circumstances constituting fraud with the degree of particularity required under Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b). Finally, defendants charge that plaintiff's failure to join the Commissioner of Internal Revenue as an indispensable party at least as to the sixth cause of action requires its dismissal. In addition to the above motion in which AAMC has joined, AAMC has separately moved to dismiss for lack of in personam jurisdiction and failure to state a claim.

Plaintiff has cross-moved for an order certifying the action as a class action pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(c)(1).

In his complaint, plaintiff lists seven causes of action all arising from similar allegedly illegal and unconstitutional admissions criteria used by defendant medical schools. The first cause of action appears to sound in contract. It is alleged that defendant medical schools failed to use the criteria for admission of transfer students set forth in various brochures sent to applicants. Rather, plaintiff maintains that unequal and arbitrary standards were used including, inter alia, preference given to those applicants who had "personal contacts" with members of the Admission Committees. Plaintiff argues that he and members of the class relied to their detriment on criteria published in these brochures.

Next, plaintiff argues in tort. He charges the defendants with intentional misrepresentation and intent to deceive and defraud.

Plaintiff's third cause of action is based on the Foreign Medical School Transfer Program. Health Professions Educational Assistance Act Pub.L.No. 94-484, 90 Stat. 2243, 2296 (1976). It is interesting to note that this program which originally provided for a "Match List" matching qualified foreign medical school applicants with participating United States schools was repealed before it went into effect. Public Health Service Act Amendments Pub.L.No. 95-215, 91 Stat. 1503 (1977).

In its place, there is now a "capitation grant" program providing for annual grants to schools of medicine which comply with various requirements. 42 U.S.C. §§ 292 et seq. One such prerequisite to participation in the program is the assurance by participating medical schools that they will increase enrollment of full time third-year students. 42 U.S.C. § 295f-1(b) (Supp.1978). This provision would presumably encourage participating medical schools to accept transfer students from foreign schools.

It is contended that the above capitation program creates a federal statutory right to fair consideration, the violation of which may properly be redressed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff maintains that the arbitrary admissions criteria used by defendant medical schools violate this statutory right as well as the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Next, plaintiff alleges a conspiracy on the part of defendants to adopt discriminatory admissions policies in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985. Alleged overt acts in connection with this conspiracy include, inter alia, dissemination of misleading information and waiver of some requirements for certain applicants. In addition, plaintiff points to several personal gripes; e. g.: failure to consider plaintiff's timely change of address letters.

In a related cause of action, plaintiff charges defendants with unlawful combinations, contracts, and agreements in restraint of trade under the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1 et seq. As part of these supposed unlawful combinations, defendants allegedly engaged in a successful "boycott" to change the "Match List" program thereby enabling them to consider applicants on the basis of their own arbitrary criteria. It is contended that defendants' unlawful activities prevent and prohibit free competition by preventing plaintiffs and members of the class the opportunity to become doctors. Consequently, the quality of health services available to the public is allegedly severely restricted.

In his sixth cause of action, plaintiff argues that defendants' tax exempt status as charitable organizations under the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3), should be revoked. To further this contention, he argues that the named "medical schools are not operating for the benefit of members of the community generally, but for the benefit of a select class of persons." Complaint ¶ 73.

Finally, without specifying the statutes or constitutional provisions to which he is referring, Selman argues that defendants activities violate individual states' requirements of fairness in considering applicants for admission.

I. Association of American Medical Colleges
A. Failure to State a Claim

AAMC's first argument in its motion to dismiss is that it is merely named in the caption of plaintiff's complaint. Nowhere in any of the substantive paragraphs of the complaint, it alleges, is there any reference to AAMC. Contrary to this assertion, however, in the fourth cause of action, plaintiff does state that "all defendants further conspired to conceal said discrimination." Complaint ¶ 57.

"Notice pleading" provided for by the Federal Rules requires that complaints be liberally construed. International Controls Corp. v. Vesco, 490 F.2d 1334, 1351 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 417 U.S. 932, 94 S.Ct. 2644, 41 L.Ed.2d 236 (1974). Here, the complaint was sufficient to give notice to AAMC that, at least, it was being included in the conspiracy charge.

Although there is a paucity of reference to defendant AAMC in the substantive portion of the complaint, I reluctantly must conclude that this alone is not sufficient reason to dismiss the complaint against AAMC. My conclusion on this matter takes into account the ease with which the complaint could be amended under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). See International Controls Corp. v. Vesco, supra, at 1351.

B. In Personam Jurisdiction

The AAMC is a non-profit, Illinois corporation whose only offices are located in Washington, D.C. It has 125 member medical schools, twelve of which are located in New York State.

The stated purpose of AAMC is "the advancement of medical education." To this end, AAMC, publishes journals, conducts research, and holds meetings and forums. Affidavit of John F. Sherman, Vice-President of AAMC, ¶ 4 (May 5, 1979) hereinafter referred to as "Sherman Aff.". Together with the American Medical Association, AAMC sponsors the Liaison Committee on Medical Education which accredits medical schools in the United States and Canada.

In addition, AAMC is involved in two programs related to medical school admissions. First, it developed the new Medical College Admissions Test hereinafter referred to as "MCAT" which is administered to those seeking admission to United States medical schools. The test is administered throughout the United States including several New York locations. This test is administered, however, by the American College Testing Program, Inc. hereinafter referred to as "ACTP", an Iowa corporation. AAMC indicates that the ACTP is an independent contractor over whom AAMC exercises no discretion or control.

AAMC also sponsors the "Coordinated Transfer Application System," hereinafter referred to as "COTRANS" and the "American Medical College Application Service" hereinafter referred to as "AMCAS". These programs provide a centralized application processing service for applicants to participating schools. Applicants submit the applications to AAMC in Washington, D.C. They are then forwarded to various designated medical schools.

AAMC owns no property, has no office, bank account, or telephone listing in New York. It is not qualified to do business in New York State and has not designated an agent for service of process there. Sherman Aff. ¶ 7.

Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(e), service upon a party not an inhabitant or found within the state may be made under the state law of the state in which the District Court is sitting. Thus, AAMC's motion to dismiss for lack of in personam jurisdiction must be tested against N.Y.Civ. Prac.Law §§ 301 and 302. (McKinney Supp.1980).

At the outset, it should be noted that once jurisdiction is challenged in an appropriate manner, plaintiff shoulders the burden of proof on the issue of personal jurisdiction. McNutt v. General Motors...

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