Wahi v. Charleston Area Medical Center, Inc.

Decision Date10 April 2009
Docket NumberNo. 06-2162.,06-2162.
Citation562 F.3d 599
PartiesRakesh WAHI, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CHARLESTON AREA MEDICAL CENTER, INCORPORATED, a West Virginia Corporation; Glenn Crotty; John Does I-X, Defendants-Appellees, and Jane Does I-X; Jamal Kahn; H. Rashid; K.C. Lee; Andrew Vaughn; John L. Chapman, Defendants. Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Incorporated, Amicus Supporting Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit

Kenneth Winston Starr, Pepperdine University School of Law, Malibu, California, for Appellant. Richard D. Jones, Flaherty, Sensabaugh & Bonasso, P.L.L.C., Charleston, West Virginia, for Appellees.


John C. Yoder, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, for Appellant. David S. Givens, Flaherty, Sensabaugh & Bonasso, P.L.L.C., Wheeling, West Virginia, for Appellees. Andrew L. Schlafly, Far Hills, New Jersey, for Amicus Supporting Appellant.

Before GREGORY and AGEE, Circuit Judges, and Rebecca Beach SMITH, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia, sitting by designation.

Affirmed by published opinion. Judge AGEE wrote the opinion, in which Judge GREGORY and Judge SMITH joined.


AGEE, Circuit Judge:

Rakesh Wahi, M.D., appeals the district court's judgment dismissing his numerous state and federal claims brought against Charleston Area Medical Center, Inc. ("CAMC") regarding the suspension of his medical privileges. The district court concluded most of Wahi's claims were barred because CAMC qualified for immunity from suit under the Health Care Quality Improvement Act ("HCQIA" or "the Act"), 42 U.S.C.A. § 11101, et seq. (West 2005). For this reason, and because the district court found Wahi's other claims failed on the merits, the court awarded CAMC and Dr. Glenn Crotty1 summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the judgment of the district court.


CAMC is a privately-run hospital operating in Charleston, West Virginia. Wahi, who is licensed to practice medicine in West Virginia, began working as a cardiothoracic surgeon at CAMC in January 1993. (J.A. 98.) The following year, Wahi started his own practice, but retained clinical privileges at CAMC. Around the same time, he began discussions with a Beckley, West Virginia medical group about the possibility of associating with them. In November 1996, CAMC temporarily suspended Wahi's hospital privileges and, as required by statute, it notified the National Practitioner's Data Bank ("NPDB"),2 of Wahi's suspension. CAMC later reinstated Wahi's clinical privileges on a provisional basis.3 (J.A. 49; 294; 511-16.) Following Wahi's reinstatement, CAMC received reports of and investigated several allegations that Wahi violated the terms of his provisional clinical privileges, which again resulted in temporary suspensions of Wahi's privileges in 1998 and 1999. From 1996 to 1999, CAMC, as required by statute, reported Wahi to the NPDB a total of five times, although the exact nature of each of the reports before 1999 is not in the record. These prior suspensions and investigations are not at issue in this appeal.4 (J.A. 50, 517-71.)

At the time of the events in question, Wahi was exercising provisional privileges at CAMC, and had requested reappointment for "an additional year ending February 26, 2000."5 (J.A. 532-33, 572.) In May 1999, the CAMC Credentials Committee6 ("Credentials Committee") recommended that Wahi's request be granted, but that his privileges remain restricted "as currently in place with intensified review as outlined in the Medical Staff Procedures Manual."7 (J.A. 532.)

By letter dated July 8, 1999, the Credentials Committee notified CAMC's Chief of Staff, [REDACTED], that it was rescinding its earlier recommendation to renew Wahi's provisional clinical privileges.8 This decision was made after receiving information that Wahi performed a [REDACTED], which he was not permitted to do under the terms of his provisional clinical privileges. The Credentials Committee had also been apprised that Wahi failed to notify CAMC, as required by the by-laws, that he had voluntarily relinquished his clinical privileges at another hospital. The Credentials Committee requested "an investigation and appropriate suspension of Dr. Wahi's clinical privileges" in light of this new information of Wahi's continued failure to comply with the terms of his provisional clinical privileges. The Credentials Committee informed [REDACTED] that its recommendation had not been communicated to the CAMC Board of Trustees, and that Wahi would be given the opportunity to meet with them "prior to any final recommendation." (J.A. 572-73.)

By letter dated July 16, 1999, [REDACTED] informed Wahi that he had been requested to investigate the two claims raised in the Credentials Committee's letter. [REDACTED] asked Wahi to "respond to each of the [allegations] in writing as soon as possible." Attached to the letter were the relevant portions of the Bylaws pertaining to the alleged violations. (J.A. 115, 575-76.)

Between July 16 and July 30, in addition to meeting with [REDACTED] to discuss the July 16 letter requesting additional information from Wahi, Wahi wrote to [REDACTED], [REDACTED], and the Chairman of the Credentials Committee in order to provide an explanation of the events surrounding the allegations against him. The Credentials Committee scheduled a meeting with Wahi for August 3, 1999 to review his performance and consider his application, which was later rescheduled for August 17, 1999, at Wahi's request. (J.A. 742.)

On July 30, 1999, [REDACTED] summarily suspended Wahi's hospital privileges at CAMC. (J.A. 50.) By letter on the same date, CAMC formally notified Wahi that his "clinical privileges [were] hereby summarily suspended pursuant to Section 2.4.1, Grounds for Summary Suspension of the Procedures Manual, `for the best interest of patient care.'" (J.A. 117.) His suspension was to "continue until resolution of [Wahi's] request for reappointment and any appeal/hearing, if requested, has been completed." (J.A. 117.) A copy of Article III of the Procedures Manual was attached to the letter, and Wahi was informed that he "may wish to avail [himself] of any rights available to [him] under Article III." (J.A. 117, 586.)

From the time of his suspension through the Credentials Committee meeting, Wahi engaged in ongoing correspondence and discussions with CAMC regarding preparation for that meeting and his application to renew clinical privileges. (See, e.g., J.A. 118-30, 654.) On August 17, 1999, the Credentials Committee met and Wahi testified, providing his response to the allegations against him. The Credentials Committee recommended denying Wahi's application for reappointment in a detailed August 26, 1999 letter. (J.A. 644-46.) By a separate letter, also dated August 26, 1999, CAMC informed Wahi of the denial of his request for reappointment of his clinical privileges and of his right to a hearing regarding this decision under Article III of the Procedures Manual. (J.A. 644-47.)

On September 8, 1999, Wahi, by counsel, requested a hearing regarding both his suspension and the decision not to renew his clinical privileges. On September 13, 1999, CAMC reported Wahi's summary suspension to the NPDB, (J.A. 962.), and to the West Virginia Board of Medicine. (J.A. 701.)

Correspondence during the next several months indicates on-going discussions between Wahi and CAMC regarding Wahi's access to his medical affairs/quality assurance file, his dislike of the composition of the hearing panel, and other aspects of the conduct of a hearing. CAMC repeatedly asked Wahi to provide "a series of convenient dates ... for the scheduling of" the requested hearing. (J.A. 762-63, 776.) Wahi has never provided CAMC with any dates on which he would be available for a hearing, and a hearing date was never set. (J.A. 760.)

In November 2000, Wahi filed a complaint in West Virginia state court requesting that the court intervene in the CAMC peer review process, declare certain of CAMC's actions invalid, require CAMC to withdraw its reports to the NPDB and state Board of Medicine, and require a court-administered hearing that satisfied Wahi's various demands. (J.A. 99-114.) The West Virginia court ultimately dismissed the action on December 6, 2001, after concluding that Wahi was not entitled to the relief he sought because the peer review process was still ongoing. It declined to "render advisory opinions" or accept Wahi's "speculation" that he would receive an unfair hearing. (J.A. 143, 131-46.)

For a while, discussions between Wahi and CAMC continued after the state court case ended, with both parties setting forth various parameters and details of the conduct of a hearing. Then discussions halted,9 with the parties never reaching an agreement or conducting or scheduling a hearing. In January 2004, Wahi filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.

The complaint alleged numerous state and federal claims, including Anti-Trust violations of the Sherman Act, against CAMC and other defendants.10 (R. 3.) CAMC filed a motion for summary judgment, which the district court construed as a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). (J.A. 48.) By order dated October 27, 2004, the district court dismissed the Sherman Act claims for failure to allege an effect on interstate commerce, but granted Wahi leave to amend to remedy that omission. (J.A. 59-61.) The district court also dismissed all but one of Wahi's § 1983 claims against CAMC, finding "utterly without merit" Wahi's assertion that CAMC acted "under color of state law" because it reported him to the NPDB. (J.A. 61-62.) Lastly, it dismissed Wahi's state invasion of privacy or wrongful disclosure claim, concluding that "a plain reading of [the HCQIA] means that only the information contained in a report to the [NPDB], and not the mere fact that a report was made, is...

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