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Lopez-Betancourt v. Loyola University of Chicago Stritch School of Medicine

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

December 15, 2017

RICARDO LOPEZ-BETANCOURT, Plaintiff,
v.
LOYOLA UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO STRITCH SCHOOL OF MEDICINE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION ORDER

          ROBERT M. DOW, JR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pro se Plaintiff Ricardo Lopez-Betancourt (“Plaintiff”), a former medical student, brings suit against Loyola University of Chicago Stritch School of Medicine (“Defendant” or “Loyola”) for violations of Title III the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Rehabilitation Act. This matter is before the Court on Defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim [19] and Plaintiff's motion for leave to file a surreply [29]. For the reasons explained below, Plaintiff's motion for leave to file a surreply [29] is granted and Defendant's motion to dismiss [19] is denied because the Court cannot determine based on the face of the complaint [8] that Plaintiff's claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. This case is set for status on January 11, 2018 at 9:00 a.m.

         I. Background [1]

         While Plaintiff was a medical student at Loyola, he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, and related physical and mental health conditions, which made it difficult for him to study for and pass the Step 1 exam that students are required to pass in order to advance at Loyola.

         In particular, Plaintiff first failed the Step 1 exam in August 2011. In November 2011, Associate Dean of Student Affairs James Mendez (“Dean Mendez”) informed Plaintiff of a new rule that required all third-year medical students to pass the Step 1 exam by January 2012 in order to remain eligible to participate in clinical clerkships. Plaintiff failed the Step 1 exam again in June 2012, and a third time in May 2013.

         In June 2013, Plaintiff received a letter informing him that he had been dismissed from Loyola for failing to pass the Step 1 exam in three attempts. Plaintiff appealed that decision. In July 2013, Loyola agreed to reinstate Plaintiff on the condition that he pass the Step 1 exam by December 31, 2013. Plaintiff was informed that a fourth failed attempt would result in an immediate dismissal with no right to appeal.

         Plaintiff requested several extensions of this deadline and a leave of absence. Ultimately, Dean Mendez denied Plaintiff's request for a leave of absence. Plaintiff sat for the Step 1 exam for the fourth time on April 24, 2014, believing that it was his only chance to remain in medical school. Plaintiff failed the exam.

         Plaintiff “was dismissed from Loyola on May 14, 2014, due to his failure to meet the conditions of his reinstatement-passing the Step 1 exam on his fourth attempt.” [8] at 6. Dean Mendez contacted one of Plaintiff's “former classmate[s] via email on May 14, 2014, without [Plaintiff's] knowledge or consent, to inform him that [Plaintiff] had failed to pass the Step 1 exam in four attempts and had been dismissed from Loyola.” Id. Plaintiff “received a phone call from Dean Sonntag on May 15, 2014, but was never informed of his enrollment status at any point during the conversation.” Id.

         Plaintiff “contacted Dean Mendez on May 16, 2014 to ask permission to retake the Step 1 exam since his health had significantly improved.” [8] at 6. Plaintiff's doctors also sent a letter to Dean Mendez in August 2014, describing the effects that his medical conditions had on his academic performance. On September 10, 2104, Plaintiff's “endocrinologist . . . contacted Loyola . . . to express her concerns that [Plaintiff's] dismissal from Loyola was the result of his various health conditions.” Id.

         Plaintiff “was not formally notified of his dismissal from Loyola effective May 14, 2014 until he requested a copy of his entire Loyola file in October 2014.” [8] at 6. Plaintiff's attorney, Deborah Pergament of the Children's Law Group, sent a demand letter to Loyola's General Counsel on November 10, 2014. Loyola responded on December 23, 2014 by refusing to reinstate Plaintiff or to take actions that would enable him to sit for the Step 1 exam. Plaintiff's medical conditions are now under control, and Plaintiff desires to retake and pass the Step 1 exam.

         Plaintiff filed suit against Loyola on December 22, 2016. See [1]. Plaintiff alleges that Loyola violated the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act by: 1) failing to grant him a leave of absence “to obtain the necessary medical and psychiatric treatment to allow him to effectively prepare for the Step 1 exam”; 2) failing to engage in the interactive process to identify other potential effective accommodations; 3) restricting his access to Loyola facilities and health care services; 4) “dismissing him in May 2014”; 5) “engaging in retaliatory conduct that consisted of failing to accommodate him and dismissing him from Loyola because he had previously asserted his rights under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act; and 6) refusing, in a letter from the Office of General Counsel dated December 23, 2014, to allow Plaintiff to be readmitted and allowed to retake the Step 1 exam. [8] at 9-10.

         Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief ordering Loyola to, among other things, reinstate him and allow him to sit for the Step 1 exam following a six to eight week period of preparation. Plaintiff also seeks compensatory damages, costs, and attorneys' fees.

         II. Motion for Leave to File Surreply

         The Court grants Plaintiff's motion for leave to file a surreply, see [29], and considers the attached two-page ...


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