United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
November 2, 2005.
LINDA SHELTON, Plaintiff,
CAROL SCHNEIDER, individually and in her official capacity as CEO of Advocate Christ Hospital and Healthcare Corporation, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES MORAN, Senior District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Linda Shelton brings this action against Carol
Schneider, Scott Keating and Advocate Christ Hospital and
Healthcare Corporation (AHHC), alleging violations of her Fourth,
Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights; violation of the Health
Care Quality Improvement Act of 1986 (HCQIA), 42 U.S.C. § 11101;
intentional infliction of emotional distress; and malicious
prosecution. She moves for leave to file in forma pauperis. For
the following reasons we deny plaintiff's motion and dismiss her
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), we may authorize plaintiff to
proceed in forma pauperis if she demonstrates an inability to
pay the required costs and fees. In her financial affidavit
plaintiff states that she is self-employed but has been unable to
work due to physical disability and legal proceedings. Although
she has secured loans from family in the amount of $10,000 to pay
for utilities, medication, food and clothing, and owns a home
worth approximately $300,000, she currently has no income or
other assets and is in default on her mortgage. Her son,
dependant on her for financial support, has had to turn to family
and charitable organizations to meet his needs. In light of these
representations plaintiff has evidenced her financial need.
Our inquiry, however, does not end with the finding of
indigence. As part of the initial review of a petition to proceed
in forma pauperis, we analyze the claims and dismiss the
complaint if we determine that the action is frivolous or
malicious, it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted, or seeks damages from a defendant who is immune from
such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii); Alston v.
Debruyn, 13 F.3d 1036, 1039 (7th Cir. 1994). For purposes of
this decision, we take plaintiff's allegations as true. See
Zimmerman v. Tribble, 226 F.3d 568, 571 (7th Cir. 2000).
And given that plaintiff appears pro se, we construe the
pleadings liberally. See Henderson v. Sheahan, 196 F.3d 839,
845-46 (7th Cir. 1999).
We garner the following facts from plaintiff's complaint.
Plaintiff was a staff physician at a private hospital, Advocate
Christ Hospital, part of Advocate Health Care, a not-for-profit
health care system in Chicago. On February 5, 2002, plaintiff
took protective custody of two children pursuant to the Illinois
Abuse and Neglect Child Reporting Act, 325 ILCS 5/5, based on her
suspicions of medical neglect at a Department of Children and
Family Services (DCFS) shelter. After speaking with DCFS, the
hospital staff released the children back to it on February 6,
2002. That afternoon plaintiff attempted to share her suspicions
at a Cook County Juvenile Court hearing, but was not allowed to
testify and was forcibly removed from the proceedings at the
judge's direction.*fn1 For the next week DCFS staff and/or
Public Guardian Guardian staff communicated with defendant
Schneider and/or other AHHC staff regarding plaintiff's conduct concerning the children, falsely stating that
plaintiff was not a legal temporary guardian of the children.
Thereafter, the AHHC pediatric department chairman called
plaintiff, indicating his concern that "AHHC administrators felt
that she shouldn't interfere with the government, even if she was
protecting a child and they were harming the child," suggesting
that she take a leave of absence from the hospital (cplt ¶ 23).
Plaintiff went to the hospital to discuss the matter, meeting
with the chair of emergency medicine. She was refused a meeting
with defendant Schneider, Chief Executive Officer of AHHC.
Thereafter, security guards ordered her to leave, stating that
plaintiff had been suspended from the staff. Plaintiff was not
afforded a hearing or meeting prior to her suspension. On
February 9, 2002, plaintiff sought emergency room medical
attention for injuries she sustained due to the rough treatment
of the sheriff at the juvenile court proceedings. Although this
injury did not stem from defendants' conduct, plaintiff alleges
receiving substandard care and being illegally restrained at the
hospital, resulting in further injuries. On February 11, 2002,
plaintiff attempted to meet with AHHC administrators,
specifically defendant Schneider, who eventually arrived, yelled
at plaintiff for causing her problems, ordered her off the
property, and told her that she could have a due process meeting
in a couple of weeks. Thereafter, plaintiff was arrested and
handcuffed for criminal trespass to property. Plaintiff alleges
violations of various constitutional rights under
42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983 and 1985, violation of HCQIA, intentional infliction
of emotional distress, and malicious prosecution.
We first address whether we have jurisdiction over these
matters. Because there is no diversity of citizenship, we address
whether there is jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 or § 1343.
Jurisdiction is proper under § 1331 for civil actions "arising
under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States," and proper under § 1343
for civil rights violations, specifically violations of
42 U.S.C. § 1985. We have identified four potential federal causes of
action in this case, arising out of 42 U.S.C §§ 1981, 1983,
1985(b), and HCQIA. Although plaintiff also asserts state law
tort and contract claims, we must find federal question
jurisdiction before we can assert supplemental jurisdiction over
those claims. Because we do not find federal jurisdiction, we
dismiss plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted.
Section 1981 reads:
All persons within the jurisdiction of the United
States shall have the same right in every State and
Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be
parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal
benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security
of persons and property as is enjoyed by white
citizens . . ."
Courts have interpreted this statute only to apply to race
discrimination. See Saint Francis College v. Al-Khazraji,
481 U.S. 604
, 609 (1987); Morris v. Office Max, Inc., 89 F.3d 411,
413 (7th Cir. 1996); Movement for Opportunity and Equality
v. General Motors Corp., 622 F.2d 1235
, 1250 (7th Cir.
1980). Section 1985(b), guarding against the obstruction of
justice, states that
. . . if two or more persons conspire for the purpose
of impeding, hindering, obstructing, or defeating, in
any manner, the due course of justice in any State or
Territory, with intent to deny to any citizen the
equal protection of the laws, or to injure him or his
property for lawfully enforcing, or attempting to
enforce, the right of any person, or class of
persons, to the equal protection of the laws . . .
the party so injured or deprived may have an action
for the recovery of damages occasioned by such injury
or deprivation, against any one or more of the
Claims under this section are also limited to "claim[s] that the
defendants were motivated in their actions by racial or some
other type of invidious, class-based discrimination." Lowe v. Letsinger, 772 F.2d 308
, 311 (7th Cir. 1985). See also
Nowicki v. Ullsvik, 69 F.3d 1320, 1325 (7th Cir. 1995);
Hossman v. Blunk, 784 F.2d 793
, 797 (7th Cir. 1986). In
this case plaintiff suggests that defendants acted in a
discriminatory manner toward minority persons with health care
coverage under Medicaid and to Medicaid psychiatric patients
(cplt ¶ 6). She does not, however, allege that defendants'
actions, as directed at her, were racially discriminatory. From
the facts set forth it does not appear that plaintiff is
suggesting that defendants suspended her because she was
exercising temporary guardianship over two Hispanic children.
Thus, she does not state a cause of action under either § 1981 or
Plaintiff also alleges violations of her Fourth, Fifth and
Fourteenth Amendment rights, asserting a cause of action under §
1983.*fn2 Section 1983 provides a cause of action only for
defendant's actions taken "under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the
District of Columbia." Plaintiff must show (1) deprivation of a
right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States;
and (2) that defendants deprived her of such right acting under
color of law. See Flagg Bros., Inc. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149,
155 (1978); Brokaw v. Mercer County, 235 F.3d 1000, 1016
(7th Cir. 2000). There is no such state action in this case.
Plaintiff makes allegations only against administrators of a
private hospital and the hospital itself. Although she includes
facts alluding to allegedly illegal conduct by DCFS staff and the
Oak Lawn police department, they are not included as defendants
in this action. Therefore, there is no clear state action upon
which a § 1983 claim can successfully be brought.
Private actors may be considered state actors for the purposes
of § 1983 actions if they conspire with state actors to deprive another of her
constitutional rights. See Brokaw v. Mercer County,
235 F.3d at 1016. Such a finding, however, requires that the private
citizens conspired, or agreed, with state actors to violate
plaintiff's rights. There is no indication of this in the
allegations. Plaintiff asserts that DCFS employees lied to
defendants, who in turn acted in accordance with that information
(cplt ¶¶ 9, 16, 50). She also asserts that defendant Schneider
gave false information to the police (cplt ¶ 60). There is no
indication, however, that the defendants ever made an agreement
with DCFS employees or members of the Oak Lawn police department
to violate plaintiff's constitutional rights. Therefore,
plaintiff does not state a cause of action under § 1983.
Finally, plaintiff alleges breach of contract and due process
violations under HCQIA. The HCQIA was enacted to reduce the
number of incompetent practicing physicians through professional
peer reviews, and was enacted for the purpose of protecting
patients, not physicians. See Hancock v. Blue Cross-Blue
Shield of Kansas, Inc., 21 F.3d 373, 374 (10th Cir. 1994);
Held v. Decatur Memorial Hosp., 16 F.Supp.2d 975, 977 (C.D.Ill.
1998). Therefore, after reviewing the legislative intent and
underlying purposes of HCQIA, other circuits have held that HCQIA
"does not explicitly or implicitly afford aggrieved physicians a
cause of action when a hospital fails to follow the HCQIA's
prescribed peer review procedures." Wayne v. Genesis Medical
Center, 140 F.3d 1145, 1147 (8th Cir. 1998). See also
Hancock v. Blue Cross-Blue Shield, Inc., 21 F.3d 373, 374-75
(10th Cir. 1994); Bok v. Mutual Assurance, Inc., 119 F.3d 927,
928-29 (11th Cir. 1997). Although the Seventh Circuit has not
explicitly stated such a holding, Illinois district and state
courts have agreed that HCQIA does not include a private cause of
action. See Held v. Decatur Memorial Hosp., 16 F.Supp.2d 975
(C.D.Ill. 1998); Evers v. Edward Hosp. Ass'n, 617 N.E.2d 1211,
1220 (Ill.App. 1993). Therefore, plaintiff's claims arising out of the HCQIA cannot proceed.
Plaintiff also asserts state law claims, including breach of
contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress and
malicious prosecution. Because we are unable to find diversity or
federal question jurisdiction, we refrain from exercising
supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state law claims.
For the foregoing reasons, plaintiff's motion to proceed in
forma pauperis is denied and her complaint is dismissed.
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