Wahi v. Charleston Area Medical Center

Decision Date29 September 2006
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 2:04-cv-00019.
Citation453 F.Supp.2d 942
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of West Virginia
PartiesRakesh WAHI, M.D., Plaintiff, v. CHARLESTON AREA MEDICAL CENTER, et al., Defendants.

John C. Yoder, Yoder Law Offices, Harpers Ferry, WV, for Plaintiff.

David S. Givens, Erica M. Baumgras, Nathaniel K. Tawney, Richard D. Jones, Tricia R. Herzfeld, Flaherty Sensabaugh & Bonasso, Charleston, WV, for Defendants.

ORDER

GOODWIN, District Judge.

Pending before the court are the defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment [Docket 75, Docket 79, and Docket 81]. After a thorough review of the pending motions and responses, the court FINDS for the defendants and GRANTS their summary judgment motions on all counts.

I. BACKGROUND
A. Factual Summary

The plaintiff, Rakesh Wahi, M.D. (Dr. Wahi), has been licensed to practice medicine in West Virginia since 1993. He specializes in cardiovascular, thoracic and general surgical procedures. In January of 1993, Dr. Wahi joined the staff of the defendant Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC), and in July of 1993 he was promoted from the defendant's probationary staff to provisional staff. CAMC is a private entity incorporated in West Virginia,

In June of 1994, Dr. Wahi started his own practice at CAMC, and also began exploring the possibility of associating himself with a separate medical group in Beckley, WV, called the "Medsurg Group." According to Dr. Wahi, CAMC then began taking various steps to restrict the plaintiffs ability to practice medicine and to prevent the plaintiff from competing with CAMC. Between 1995 and 1999 Dr. Wahi was the subject of several peer review investigations concerning his performance as a physician. The investigations were mainly conducted internally, but at least one review was conducted by an external committee. Although the reasoning behind and validity of the investigations, as well as, the outcomes remain a point of contention and disagreement between the parties, the reviews did result in various restrictions and suspensions being placed on Dr. Wahi's privileges prior to 1999. As a result of these investigations, negative reports were sent to the National Practitioner's Data Bank (Data Bank).

The Data Bank is a national clearinghouse established pursuant to the Health Care Quality Improvement Act of 1986 (HCQIA). See 42 U.S.C. §§ 11133-11134 (2004). Under the HCQIA, health care entities may qualify for immunity from civil liability for certain actions if they report information to the Data Bank following "a professional review action that adversely affects the clinical privileges of a physician for a period longer than 30 days." Id. § 11133(1)(A). According to Congress, the purpose of the Data Bank and reporting incentives is "to restrict the ability of incompetent physicians to move from State to State without disclosure or discovery of the physician's previous damaging or incompetent performance." Id. § 11101(2). Reported information must include the physician's name and a description of the reasons for the adverse action. Id. § 11133(3)(A) and (B).

According to Dr. Wahi, negative reports were made about him to the Data Bank by CAMC on November 25, 1996; December 6, 1996; December 24, 1997; March 22, 1999; and September 13, 1999. Based on CAMC's reports to the Data Bank, the West Virginia Board of Medicine (Board of Medicine) investigated Wahi and brought charges against him on three separate occasions. The plaintiff alleges that the defendant CAMC worked closely with the Board of Medicine to bring these charges and attempted to deprive him of his license to practice medicine in West Virginia. The Board of Medicine dismissed the last charges against Dr. Wahi on November 10, 2003.

The situation between CAMC and Dr. Wahi culminated in July 1999, when the credentials committee withdrew its recommendation that Dr. Wahi's medical staff privileges at CAMC be renewed. The committee's decision was followed by an investigation which resulted in the summary suspension of Dr. Wahi's medical staff privileges at CAMC. However, during the month of July 1999, there were numerous communications between CAMC and Dr. Wahi, in which CAMC notified Dr. Wahi of the allegations, the general nature of evidence, the possible adverse recommendations that the committee was considering, in addition to Dr. Wahi's rights under CAMC medical staff bylaws. In fact, the letters sent from CAMC to Dr. Wahi often included attachments of the relevant portions of the bylaws.

At some point during the process, either before or after the suspension of his medical privileges at CAMC Dr. Wahi obtained counsel. Following his suspension, Dr. Wahi, via counsel, requested a hearing pursuant to the hospital's bylaws. However, a hearing has never been held. Dr. Wahi alleges that a hearing was never set because CAMC failed to meet its burden of setting a hearing date. CAMC, on the other hand, alleges that a hearing was never scheduled because Dr. Wahi refused to agree to the parameters of any proposed hearing. Ultimately, Dr. Wahi alleges that he has been denied a fair hearing and that the adverse professional review actions were taken pursuant to a conspiracy by the defendants to monopolize thoracic and cardiovascular medicine and surgery in the Charleston, Beckley, Bluefield, and Parkersburg area of West Virginia.

B. Procedural History

Dr. Wahi filed an eleven-count Amended Complaint against CAMC and several other defendants, both named and unnamed. Dr. Wahi claimed that the defendants: 1) engaged in an antitrust conspiracy under the Sherman Act (15 U.S.C. § 1); 2) engaged in antitrust monopolization under the Sherman Act (15 U.S.C. § 2); 3) violated his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment Due Process rights; 4) retaliated against him in violation of his First Amendment rights; 5) breached the contract between CAMC and Dr. Wahi; 6) conspired to deny him Due Process in violation of his rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments; 7) defamed him by reporting him to the Data Bank; 8) invaded his privacy and disclosed confidential information; 9) violated his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1981; 10) conspired to obstruct justice and deny equal protection in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985; and 11) neglected to prevent the conspiracy alleged in Count 10 in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1986. Based on these claims, Dr. Wahi requests injunctive relief, actual damages, and punitive damages.

In response to Dr. Wahi's claims, the defendants moved to dismiss `the Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In an opinion issued October 27, 2004, this court dismissed counts one and two without prejudice and granted plaintiff leave to amend the complaint to allege an impact on interstate commerce; and this court also dismissed counts three, four, and eight for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The court then ordered the parties to engage in limited discovery and brief the court on whether defendants are entitled to immunity from civil liability under the HCQIA for all claims except civil rights claims; and whether any issues of material fact exists regarding claims alleged in Counts Five, Six, Nine, Ten and Eleven.

An amended complaint was filed and the counts were renumbered as follows: 1) antitrust conspiracy under the Sherman Act (15 U.S.C. § 1); 2) antitrust monopolization under the Sherman Act (15 U.S.C. § 2); 3) breach of contract between CAMC and Dr. Wahi; 4) conspiracy to deny Due Process in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments (42 U.S.C. § 1983); 5) defamation; 6) violation of civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1981; 7) conspiracy to obstruct justice and deny equal protection in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985; and 8) neglect to prevent the conspiracy alleged in Count 7 in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1986.

Thereafter, Dr. Wahi voluntarily dismissed all defendants except CAMC, Dr. Crotty, and Dr. Chapman. Finally, Dr. Wahi also voluntarily dismissed Counts Seven and Eight. This now leaves the Court to address the following issues: a) whether CAMC is entitled to immunity under HCQIA from civil liability for all counts except the civil rights claims; and b) whether any genuine issue of material fact remains for Counts Three, Four, and Six.

II. THE HEALTH CARE QUALITY IMPROVEMENT ACT (HCQIA)

The HCQIA was enacted in 1986 to improve the quality of medical care by restricting the ability of physicians who have been found to be incompetent from repeating this malpractice by moving from state to state `without discovery of such finding. Imperial v. Suburban Hospital Ass'n, Inc., 37 F.3d 1026, 1028 (4th Cir. 1994) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 11101). The HCQIA establishes a national reporting system to follow bad doctors from place to place, and provides immunity from damages for persons participating in professional review activities. Imperial, 37 F.3d at 1028.

To assure that hospitals and doctors cooperate with the system and engage in meaningful professional review, Congress found it necessary to provide qualified immunity from damages actions for hospitals, doctors, and others who participate in the professional review process. Id. (citing 42 U.S.C. § 11101). "Thus, 42 U.S.C. § 11101 provides that persons participating in professional review activities that meet the standards outlined in 42 U.S.C. § 11112, `shall not be liable in damages under any law of the United States or any State' with respect to the person's participation in such activities." Imperial, 37 F.3d at 1028. The conditions set forth granting such immunity are set forth in § 11112(a) and are discussed below.

A. Qualifications for HCQIA Immunity

The HCQIA provides immunity from damages for those who participate in professional peer review. For HCQIA immunity to attach, however, the peer review action must comport with due process. Freilich v. Upper...

To continue reading

Request your trial
12 cases
  • Granger v. Christus Health Cent. La.
    • United States
    • Louisiana Supreme Court
    • August 30, 2013
    ...between a hospital and its medical staff: Brintley v. St. Mary Mercy Hospital, 904 F.Supp.2d at 720–21; Wahi v. Charleston Area Medical Center, 453 F.Supp.2d 942, 956 (S.D.W.Va.2006), affirmed,562 F.3d 599 (4th Cir.2009), cert. denied,558 U.S. 1158, 130 S.Ct. 1140, 175 L.Ed.2d 991 (2010); J......
  • Granger v. Christus Health Cent. La.
    • United States
    • Louisiana Supreme Court
    • June 28, 2013
    ...between a hospital and its medical staff: Brintley v. St. Mary Mercy Hospital, 904 F.Supp.2d at 720-21; Wahi v. Charleston Area Medical Center, 453 F.Supp.2d 942, 956 (S.D. W.Va. 2006), affirmed, 562 F.3d 599 (4th Cir. 2009), cert. denied, 558 U.S. 1158, 130 S.Ct. 1140, 175 L.Ed.2d 991 (201......
  • Feller v. Miriam Hospital
    • United States
    • Rhode Island Superior Court
    • October 30, 2009
    ... ... with Miriam Hospital Medical Staff Association Bylaws ... ("Miriam Bylaws"), ... Wahi v. Charleston Area Med. Ctr. , 453 F.Supp.2d ... 942, ... ...
  • Feller v. Miriam Hospital, C.A. No. PB 07-5603 (R.I. Super 10/30/2009)
    • United States
    • Rhode Island Superior Court
    • October 30, 2009
    ...the provision of `such other procedures as are fair to the physician under the circumstances provided.'" Wahi v. Charleston Area Med. Ctr., 453 F. Supp. 2d 942, 952 (S.D.W.Va., 2006) (quoting language from 42 U.S.C. §11112(a)(3) In the instant matter, Plaintiff entered into the Consent Agre......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT