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Vaseemuddin v. Cook County

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois

April 24, 2015

Mohammad Vaseemuddin, Plaintiff,
v.
Cook County, Cook County Health and Hospitals System, Chukwuemeka Ezike, M.D., Claudia Fegan, M.D., Emil Makar, M.D., Dana Quartana, Enrique Martinez, M.D., and Union Doctors Council, SEIU, Defendants.

ORDER

RONALD A. GUZMN, District Judge.

For the reasons stated below, the motions to dismiss filed by Cook County, Cook County Health and Hospitals System, Chukwuemeka Ezike, M.D., Claudia Fegan, M.D., Emil Makar, M.D., and Enrique Martinez, M.D. [65] and Dana Quartana and the Union Doctors' Council SEIU [63] are granted. Counts I, II, and III are dismissed with prejudice while the remaining state law counts are dismissed without prejudice. All other pending motions are denied as moot. Civil case terminated.

STATEMENT

Plaintiff was employed as a physician with Cook County Health and Hospitals System ("CCHHS"), and as of August 2011, worked at the Oak Forest Health Center as an emergency room physician. (3d. Am. Compl. ("TAC"), Dkt. # 54, ¶¶ 22-24.) Plaintiff complained to CCHHS as well as the Illinois Inspector General's Office and the Cook County Sheriff's Office about poor patient care at Oak Forest Health Center due to cost cutting measures. (Id. ¶¶ 25-32.) After Plaintiff received an offer to work at Provident Hospital, also part of CCHHS, the offer was rescinded. (Id. ¶ 33-35.) According to Plaintiff, a Provident doctor, Clifton Clark, advised the Human Resources department not to proceed with employing Plaintiff because of information Clark had received from Plaintiff's then supervisors about his performance and behavioral issues. (Id. ¶ 35.) Plaintiff received an email rescinding the job offer on May 13, 2013 while he was on leave under the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). (Id. ¶ 37.) When Plaintiff contacted defendant Dr. Claudia Fegan regarding the reason his job offer was revoked, she told him that he was needed more at Oak Forest Health Center and she had received a "bad reference letter from [an] unknown source." (Id. ¶¶ 37-39.)

Subsequently, Plaintiff approached Union Doctors Council SEIU ("Union") with a grievance, but was instructed by Dana Quartana, the Union's Regional Coordinator, to drop his grievance because there were no further steps that could be taken. (Id. ¶¶ 39-42.) According to the TAC, Plaintiff was entitled to 30 days of additional leave after his FMLA leave ended pursuant to the relevant collective bargaining agreement ("CBA"), but was denied this additional leave in violation of the CBA. (Id. ¶¶ 43, 44.) Plaintiff alleges that he was "terminated after two hearings" and that his December 4, 2013 termination letter was sent to the wrong address, so he has not received a copy directly. (Id. ¶¶ 45-46.)

Plaintiff alleges conspiracy claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Counts I, II, and III), retaliatory discharge (Count IV), breach of contract (Count V), violation of the Illinois Whistleblower's Act (Count VI), and tortious interference with prospective economic advantage (Count VII).

Standard

The Court may dismiss a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) if the plaintiff fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Under the notice pleading requirements of Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must "give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). A complaint need not provide detailed factual allegations, but mere conclusions and a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" will not suffice. Bell Atl., 127 S.Ct. at 1964-1965. In considering a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. McCullah v. Gadert, 344 F.3d 655, 657 (7th Cir. 2003).

Analysis

Counts I, II and III: 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Conspiracy claim against CCHHS, Chukwuemeka Ezike, M.D., Claudia Fegan, M.D. Emil Makar, M.D., Dana Quartana, Union Doctors Council SEIU, and Enrique Martinez, M.D.

In Count I, Plaintiff alleges that he reported a patient's death and Defendant's negligent care to the Cook County Sheriff's Office after the patient died in an unsecured utility closet at Oak Forest Health Center in September 2012. (3d Am. Compl., Dkt. # 54, ¶¶ 50-51.) Defendants then, according to Plaintiff, conspired to "terminate Plaintiff and deprive him of various employment opportunities and benefits because of Plaintiff's reporting." (Id. ¶ 32.) Plaintiff and Defendants agree that "to establish § 1983 liability through a conspiracy theory, a plaintiff must demonstrate that: (1) a state official and a private individual(s) reached an understanding to deprive the plaintiff of his constitutional rights, and (2) those individual(s) were willful participant[s] in joint activity with the State or its agents." Cooney v. Casady, 735 F.3d 514 (7th Cir. 2013) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Plaintiff responds to Defendants' assertion that he has failed to state a conspiracy claim by pointing to paragraphs 52-55 of the TAC, which state as follows:

52. After Plaintiff's reorting of incident, Defendants conspired to terminate Plaintiff and deprive him of various employment opportunities and benefits because of Plaintiff's reporting.
53. [Plaintiff] repeatedly spoke out or attempted to speak out on matters of public concern while employed by Defendant Cook County, namely with regards to the understaffing, negligence, acts of concealment and other wrongdoing of his supervisors and nurse manager and other conduct adversely affecting the health, safety and welfare of patients at CCCHS and Oak Forest Immediate Care, and made it known that he would not lie to cover-up for anybody with regard to such matters of public concern.
54. [Plaintiff] had a right under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution to speak out on these matters of public concern and his right to do so outweighed ...

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