United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
February 27, 2004.
DAVID HUGHES, Plaintiff,
CITY OF CHICAGO, an Illinois municipal corporation; QUEST DIAGNOSTICS, INC., a New Jersey corporation; and DR. HUGH RUSSELL, in his individual capacity and official capacity as Medical Review Officer of the Chicago Fire Department Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARVIN ASPEN, Chief Judge, District
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff David Hughes' complaint against Defendants City of Chicago
("City"), Quest Diagnostics, Inc. ("Quest"), and Dr. Hugh Russell raises
various claims relating to a positive drug test that ultimately led to
Hughes' termination from the Chicago Fire Department, For the reasons set
forth below, we dismiss the case in its entirety.*fn1
In 2001, the Chicago Fire Department hired Plaintiff David Hughes as a
candidate paramedic. Hughes' employment contract required him to submit
to random drug testing and provided that he could be terminated if any of
his drug tests yielded a positive result.
Defendant Quest Diagnostics is a corporation that contracts with the
Chicago Fire Department to perform laboratory analysis of drug test
samples submitted by fire department employees. In September 2001, Hughes
provided a urine sample which was submitted to Quest for testing. Quest
conducted two tests on the sample, both of which reflected that Hughes'
morphine opiate level was 481 ng/ml, slightly above the 300 ng/ml cut off
level set by the Chicago Fire Department. Defendant Dr. Russell, the
Medical Review Officer for the Chicago Fire Department, reviewed and
confirmed the results of Quest's test report. As a result of the positive
tests, Hughes was fired from his candidate paramedic position on October
9, 2001. Hughes responded to his termination with the present action.
The central focus of Hughes' eleven count complaint is the cut off
level that the defendants used in testing for the presence of opiates in
Hughes' sample. The parties agree that the actual testing of the sample
was done with scientific precision; there are no questions surrounding
chain of custody, the types of procedures used to perform the tests, or
the accuracy of the 481 ng/ml result obtained. Rather, Hughes argues that
the defendants' use of the 300 ng/ml cut off level for opiates was
unacceptably low and contrary to scientific standards.
It is widely accepted that drug tests can yield false positive results
for low levels of opiates and codeine if the person being tested has
recently ingested poppy seeds or some (perfectly legal) prescription
drugs. See David W. Lockhard, Protecting Medical Laboratories From
Tort Liability for Drug Tenting, 17 J. Legal Med. 427 (1996). For
that reason, the federal government requires its employees to be tested
using a 2,000 ng/ml cut off level. 49 C.F.R. § 40.87. The question
presented in this case is whether the City of Chicago, the doctor who
reviewed the test results, and the corporation which performed the
testing can be held liable for their decision to treat Hughes' 481 ng/ml
result as positive for opiates rather than adhering to the much higher
cut off levels set by the
federal government and commonly used by other employers. Hughes
also claims that the parties owed him a duty to: 1) warn him that eating
certain foods could produce a false positive result; and 2) conduct
further, more exacting tests that would have revealed whether his
positive test was actually the result of illicit opiates.
Subject matter jurisdiction was originally premised on Hughes' federal
claims, including his allegations that the City had violated his Fourth
Amendment right to be free from search and seizure (Count I), his
Fourteenth Amendment right to due process under the law (Count II), and
his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection under the law (Count
III).*fn2 Hughes' complaint also raised two Illinois state law claims
against the defendants, including negligence and tortious interference
with an employment contract.*fn3 Jurisdiction over the state law claims
was premised on 238 U.S.C. § 1367, which allows a federal court to
assert supplemental jurisdiction over state law claims "that are so
related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that
they form part of the same case or controversy under Article III of the
United States Constitution."
On July 2, 2003, we dismissed all three of Hughes' federal causes of
action as well as his state law tortious interference claim against Dr.
Russell. However, we allowed Hughes to proceed with his common law
negligence claims against the City, Dr. Russell, and Quest. Having
all of Hughes' federal counts, the issue now before us is whether
we should continue to assert supplemental jurisdiction over the state law
matters. Although district courts have considerable discretion in this
context, the general presumption in the Seventh Circuit is that a court
should dismiss without prejudice supplemental state law claims once all
federal claims have been eliminated prior to trial. See Grace v. Eli
Lilly & Co., 193 F.3d 496, 501 (7th Cir. 1999); see also
United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726 (1966)
("Certainly if the federal claims are dismissed before trial, even though
not insubstantial in a jurisdictional sense, the state claims should be
dismissed as well."). There are, however, several factors that a court
should consider before taking such a step, including "considerations of
judicial economy, convenience and fairness to litigants" as well as the
novelty or complexity of the issues presented by the state law claims.
United Mine Workers, 383 U.S. at 726.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c), a federal court may decline
supplemental jurisdiction over a claim that "raises a novel or complex
issue of state law." See also Bilow v. Much Shelist Freed Denenberg
Amenl & Rubenstein, P.C., 277 F.3d 882, 896 (7th Cir. 2001)
(upholding a district court's decision to dismiss state law claims where
the claims were "complex" and presented "undecided legal issues, best
resolved by the Illinois state courts") (quoting district court); see
also United Mine Workers, 383 U.S. at 726 ("[n]eedless decisions of
state law should be avoided both as a matter of comity and to promote
justice between the parties, by procuring for them a surer-footed reading
of applicable law."). We must therefore consider whether Hughes'
remaining negligence claims require a straightforward application of
Illinois law or whether they present issues that have not been directly
ruled upon by Illinois courts.
To state a claim for negligence under Illinois law, a plaintiff must
establish "the existence of a duty owed by the defendant to the
plaintiff, a breach of that duty, and injury proximately resulting
from the breach." DiBenedetto v. Flora Tramp., 605 N.E.2d 571,
573 (Ill. 1992). In this case, the central question is whether each
of the individual defendants owed Hughes a duty of care to: 1) follow
scientifically accepted standards in setting opiate cut off levels; 2)
warn Hughes about the possibility that certain foods could result in a
positive test; or 3) conduct more sophisticated tests to confirm the
presence of illicit drugs in Hughes'sample. None of these questions have
been directly ruled upon by any Illinois court.
The most closely analogous case is Stinson v. Physicians Immediate
Care, Ltd., in which an Illinois Appellate Court held that a testing
facility owed a duty of care to perform drug tests in a reasonably
competent manner. 646 N.E.2d 930 (Ill.App. Ct. 1995). That case dealt
with a situation in which the laboratory had botched the technical
analysis of the sample by failing to use "routinely followed
precautionary procedures." Id. at 931. Thus, had the testing
facility in this case (Quest) mixed up several samples or used unsterile
equipment to perform the test, Illinois law indicates that Hughes could
be successful in his negligence suit, at least with respect to Quest.
However, Hughes does not allege negligence in the actual processing of
his sample. Rather, he alleges negligence in the way the sample results
(which he admits were technically accurate) were interpreted, in the
amount of information given to him before the test, and in the failure to
conduct a second type of test. Nor does Hughes allege negligence against
the testing facility alone (as was the case in Stinson); he also argues
that the City and Dr. Russell owed him a duty of care in interpreting his
test results. In essence, Hughes is requesting that this court extend the
duty conferred by the Illinois Appellate Court in Stinson to fit the
facts of his case.
Illinois courts have explained that, "[i]n considering whether a duty
exists in a particular case, a court must weigh the foreseeability of the
injury, the likelihood of the injury, the magnitude of the burden of
guarding against it and the consequences of placing that burden on the
Gouge v. Central Illinois Pub. Serv. Co., 582 N.E.2d 108,
112 (Ill. 1991) (citations omitted). The present case would require us to
perform this balancing act with respect to each of the three allegedly
negligent actions as performed by each of the three named defendants,
attempting to predict the outcome that the Illinois courts would reach.
All of those inquiries would be conducted with very little guidance from
Illinois courts. Without such specific guidance, we believe that it would
be imprudent to assert supplemental jurisdiction over Hughes' state law
claims, the only remaining claims in this case.
For the foregoing reasons, we dismiss the remaining claims in Hughes'
complaint without prejudice. It is so ordered.