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SUMANLAL KANERIA v. AMERICAN BD. OF PSYCHIATRY & N

October 5, 1993

SUMANLAL KANERIA, Plaintiff,
v.
THE AMERICAN BOARD OF PSYCHIATRY AND NEUROLOGY, INC., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARVIN E. ASPEN

 MARVIN E. ASPEN, District Judge:

 Plaintiff Sumanlal J. Kaneria brings this suit for breach of contract, negligence, and breach of fiduciary against the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc, essentially challenging the Board's repeated decisions to deny him Board certification. Presently before the court is the Board's motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a cause of action, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, the Board's motion is granted.

 I. Motion to Dismiss Standard

 A motion to dismiss should not be granted unless it "appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claims which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957); see also Beam v. IPCO Corp., 838 F.2d 242, 244 (7th Cir. 1988); Ellsworth v. City of Racine, 774 F.2d 182, 184 (7th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1047, 89 L. Ed. 2d 574, 106 S. Ct. 1265 (1986). We take the "well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true and view them, as well as reasonable inferences therefrom, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Balabanos v. North Am. Inv. Group, Ltd., 708 F. Supp. 1488, 1491 n.1 (N.D. Ill. 1988) (citing Ellsworth).

 II. Factual Background

 The Board is a private, non-profit corporation whose purpose is to maintain and enhance the quality of psychiatric and neurologic care by identifying qualified specialists within these two fields. In performing this function the Board sets standards of knowledge and skill in these fields and, through a process of separate written and oral examinations, identifies and certifies physicians who meet these standards.

 Kaneria initially applied for Board certification in 1977 and first took the written and oral examinations in 1978. After passing the written examination, Kaneria took the oral examination in Denver, Colorado. The oral examination is administered in various cities throughout the United States and consists of two parts: (1) a thirty-minute interview of a patient followed by a thirty-minute interview with the Board's examiners; and (2) an observation of an audiovisual tape of a psychiatric examination that is followed by an interview with the Board's examiners who question the candidate about the content of the tape. After administering the oral examination to Kaneria in Denver, the Board informed him that he had failed.

 Thus began an odyssey that took Kaneria to a myriad of cities throughout the United States, including New York, Atlanta, San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Seattle in pursuit of a passing grade on the Board's oral examination. Between 1978 and 1990, Kaneria failed a total of ten times, either the first part, the second part, or both parts of the oral examination. The Board informed Kaneria at one point during this period that the passing grade that he received on the written examination would expire after seven years. Kaneria responded by again taking and passing the written examination in 1988.

 Upon notification of his most recent failure to pass the oral examination, Kaneria requested information from the Board concerning the reasons for his failing grade. The Board responded by informing Kaneria that he had failed both parts of the oral examination, but the Board did not provide Kaneria with the reasons for his failing grade. Kaneria then pursued an appeal of the Board's "negative determination" in accordance with the Board's appeal procedures by paying $ 400.00 and providing the Board with a written rebuttal to the Board's determination, though he had not been informed of the Board's analysis in deciding to fail him. The Board subsequently advised Kaneria that no personal appearance before the Board was permitted and that the submission of his appeal would be forwarded to the Board's review committee. The Board ultimately sustained Kaneria's failing grade without providing any additional information.

 Kaneria alleges that the Board's administration of the oral examination is arbitrary and capricious both as a general procedure by which to measure a candidate's knowledge and skills and as the particular examination was administered to him. In addition, Kaneria alleges that the Board's failure to provide reasons explaining his failing grade and conduct an adequate appeal procedure are arbitrary and capricious. He claims that this arbitrary and capricious conduct caused the Board to: (1) breach the implied covenant of good faith contained within the application for certification agreement; (2) fail to exercise reasonable care in the development and administration of the oral examination; and (3) breach the fiduciary duty that Kaneria claims the Board owes each of its candidates.

 III. Procedural History

 Kaneria originally filed his complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, asserting federal diversity of jurisdiction. The Board moved for dismissal or transfer on the grounds of lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue. During the pendency of this motion, Kaneria filed an Amended Complaint. At the hearing on the motion to dismiss, the United States District Judge Thomas J. McAvoy granted Kaneria time to conduct discovery limited to the issues of jurisdiction venue, and thereafter ordered Kaneria to amend his complaint. Kaneria subsequently filed a Second Amended Complaint, and the Board filed a motion to dismiss and for summary judgment on the jurisdiction and venue issues. Following oral argument, Judge McAvoy ...


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