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Bassam Assaf, M.D v. Trinity Medical Center

August 15, 2011

BASSAM ASSAF, M.D., PLAINTIFF
v.
TRINITY MEDICAL CENTER, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John A. Gorman United States Magistrate Judge

E-FILED Monday, 15 August, 2011 03:35:35 PM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

OPINION

The parties have consented to have this case heard to judgment by a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), and the District Judge has referred the case to me. Now before the Court is the Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (#16). The motion is fully briefed and I have carefully considered the arguments and evidence of the parties. As stated herein, the motion is GRANTED.

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

Plaintiff Bassam Assaf filed suit against Defendant Trinity Medical Center in the 14th Judicial Circuit, Rock Island County, Illinois. Defendant removed the case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1446 on the basis of diversity jurisdiction.

The Notice of Removal states that Plaintiff is a citizen of Syria, and that. Defendant is a notfor-profit corporation under Illinois law. Pursuant to Defendant's supplemental jurisdictional statement (Doc. #22), it has its principle place of business in Rock Island, Illinois. The parties are therefore diverse. Count I of the complaint seeks $50,000 for his lost salary for the year 2009.. Count II seeks an unspecified amount of lost income from August 17, 2009 through July 10, 2011. Count III seeks $31,369. The matter in controversy therefore exceeds the statutory minimum of $75,000.

This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1332(a)(2).

Venue is proper in the Central District of Illinois, Rock Island Division, because that is the location where the underlying events occurred.

MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT GENERALLY

The purpose of summary judgment is to "pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). Under Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment should be entered if and only if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Jay v. Intermet Wagner Inc., 233 F.3d 1014, 1016 (7th Cir.2000); Cox v. Acme Health Serv., 55 F.3d 1304, 1308 (7th Cir. 1995). In ruling on a summary judgment motion, the court may not weigh the evidence or resolve issues of fact; disputed facts must be left for resolution at trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986). The court's role in deciding the motion is not to sift through the evidence, pondering the nuances and inconsistencies, and decide whom to believe. Waldridge v. American Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 922 (7th Cir.1994). The court has one task and one task only: to decide, based on the evidence of record, whether there is any material dispute of fact that requires a trial.

The court is to examine all admissible facts, viewing the entirety of the record and accepting all facts and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant, Erdman v. City of Ft. Atkinson, 84 F.3d 960, 961 (7th Cir. 1996); Vukadinovich v. Bd. of Sch. Trustees, 978 F.2d 403, 408 (7th Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 844 (1993); Lohorn v. Michal, 913 F.2d 327, 331 (7th Cir. 1990); DeValk Lincoln-Mercury, Inc. V. Ford Motor Co., 811 F.2d 326, 329 (7th Cir. 1987);

Bartman v. Allis Chalmers Corp., 799 F.2d 311, 312 (7th Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 1092 (1987), and construing any doubts against the moving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144 (1970); Trotter v. Anderson, 417 F.2d 1191 (7th Cir. 1969); Haefling v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 169 F.3d 494, 497 (7th Cir.1999).

UNDISPUTED FACTS

The issue raised by the pending motion is whether the parties entered into a final and enforceable settlement contract when Dr. Assaf and Tom Tibbitts signed a document titled "Settlement Agreement" on February 26, 2010, or whether that document was merely a preliminary summary of the terms of agreement reached orally, which were subject to further review and amendment.

The record in this case includes numerous documents, the authenticity of those documents is not disputed. From those documents, and from the parties' subsequent conduct as it is reflected in those documents, the Court can determine what the parties' intent was as to the February 26, 2009 document. Hence, an abbreviated statement of facts, with details about the documents but with nothing about the parties' subjective thoughts or intentions, follows.

Dr. Bassam Assaf is a Board Certified Neurologist. Beginning in 2005, he served as the Epilepsy Medical Director for Trinity Medical Center ("TMC") pursuant to a written Medical Director Agreement ("MDA"). This MDA is also referred to by the parties as the "Epilepsy Agreement." The terms of the MDA were very important to Dr. Assaf, as they affected the status of his visa. As is pertinent here, the MDA set out his salary, the number of hours he was expected to work, how to document those hours, and how termination of the MDA could be effected.

In 2008, TMC gave Dr. Assaf 90 days written notice that the MDA would not continue after the end of the year. Dr. Assaf continued to work until August 17, 2009, when TMC sent him a termination letter.

Dr. Assaf filed discrimination charges with the EEOC, the Illinois Department of Human Rights. Then, on February 1, 2010, he filed this lawsuit in Rock Island County Circuit Court. TMC removed the case to federal court. Dr. Assaf's complaint alleges*fn1 breach of contract and violations of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act.

During 2009 and 2010, the parties tried to negotiate a new contract. During these negotiations, both parties were represented by counsel. Dr. Assaf was represented by the same counsel who now represents him in this litigation. TMC was represented by a number of attorneys, including the same attorney who represents TMC in this litigation.

In November of 2009, Tom Tibbitts replaced Andrea Coleman as Chief Executive Officer of TMC. In that position, Tibbitts had full authority to enter into a settlement agreement. Tibbitts and Dr. Assaf met for about 45 minutes to an hour on February 22, 2010, only a few weeks after Dr. Assaf had filed the instant lawsuit, in an effort to resolve the issues between them. Tibbitts brought with him to the meeting a one page document as follows:

Trinity Medical Center

Dr. Assaf: Settlement Position

1. Contract & Renewals Option 1: Option 2:

Medical Director of Epilepsy Program Pro-rated payment of wages for only, 1/1/10 to 12/31/11, at $62,500 per 2009 as Medical Director of year. No salary for 2009 Epilepsy Program for the period 1/1/09-9/17/09 in the amount of $31,369 salary for 2010 would be $50,000.

Notes:

1. Both options require acceptable documentation approved by TMC Administration

2. Dr. Assaf is Medical Director of Epilepsy Program for 2010

2. Directorship of Neuroscience Unit

3. Attorney Fee ***

4. Compensation Damages ***

5. Release Dr. Assaf release TMC from all charges and claims

6. Continuing Medical Education Agreed

7. Visa Fees Agreed

8. Non-Compete Clause Agreed

9. Termination Notices Agreed, but must include expunging all adversarial memos from Dr. Assaf's personnel records related ...


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