Talal S. Hamdan, M.D. Plaintiff-Appellant,
Indiana University Health North Hospital, Inc., Defendant-Appellee.
December 13, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No.
l:13-cv-195-WTL-MJD - William T. Lawrence, Judge.
Wood, Chief Judge, and Manion and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.
Hamilton, Circuit Judge.
Talal Hamdan, a U.S. citizen of Middle-Eastern (Palestinian)
descent, sued Indiana University Health North Hospital, Inc.
for discriminating against him based on race. Dr. Hamdan was
not an employee of the hospital and so could not sue under
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He sued instead
under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, a law first enacted as part of
the Civil Rights Act of 1866, after ratification of the
Thirteenth Amendment, to protect the ability of newly freed
slaves to enter into and enforce contracts, especially
contracts regarding land and their labor. Dr. Hamdan alleged
discrimination regarding the benefits, privileges, terms, and
conditions in his contractual relationship with the hospital.
trial ended with a verdict for the hospital. Dr. Hamdan then
moved for a new trial. He argued that the district court had
erred in allowing the hospital to ask him impeachment
questions relating to his prior work at other hospitals. Dr.
Hamdan contends the subjects of these questions were both
irrelevant and privileged under state peer-review statutes.
We find no abuse of discretion and affirm the judgment of the
Factual and Procedural Background
Hamdan was an interventional cardiologist with privileges at
the hospital from 2008 to 2012. He asserts that he suffered
hostile treatment from his colleagues because of his
Middle-Eastern background and that the hospital turned a
blind eye to the mistreatment. His colleagues, on the other
hand, complained about him. They told the hospital that he
had engaged in unprofessional conduct, performing risky
procedures and making offensive, demeaning, and disrespectful
comments to colleagues and staff.
hospital responded by forcing Dr. Hamdan to participate in a
peer-review discipline process. The process is triggered when
an incident report is filed against a doctor. A committee of
the doctor's peers then reviews the doctor's actions
and may recommend discipline. The hospital's peer-review
committee issued Dr. Hamdan two disciplinary letters. He
successfully challenged the charges through an appeal
process, and the hospital's board of directors ultimately
voided the letters. In 2012, however, Dr. Hamdan resigned
from the hospital and relinquished his hospital privileges.
Hamdan then filed this suit against the hospital under 42
U.S.C. § 1981 for race discrimination, alleging that the
hospital failed to stop hostile behavior by his colleagues.
He alleged, for example, that colleagues barricaded a
conference-room door with tables so that he could not pray
there and made comments about his "kind." More
generally, he alleged in the language of § 1981 that the
hospital denied him the same conditions of a contractual
relationship that a "white citizen" would have
discovery the hospital obtained information from Dr.
Hamdan's prior employers about a variety of problems in
his work at four hospitals-one in Louisiana where Dr. Hamdan
did his residency, another in Michigan where he did a
cardiology fellowship, and two in Indiana where he had worked
for several years more recently.
case went to trial. During opening statements, Dr.
Hamdan's lawyer told the jury he would be asking for
between fifteen and fifty-six million dollars for damage to
Dr. Hamdan's reputation. Dr. Hamdan testified on direct
examination about his reputation. He swore that it was
"untarnished" before he received the now-voided
disciplinary letters from the defendant hospital. The judge
then agreed with the hospital that "the door has indeed
been opened regarding Dr. Hamdan's reputation and how the
adverse letters have affected a reputation." The judge
allowed the hospital to cross-examine the doctor about
"other incidents" bearing on his reputation solely
for the purpose of establishing [his] reputation in the
cross-examination, the hospital questioned Dr. Hamdan at
length about his employment history before joining the
hospital. No documents about Dr. Hamdan's prior work
history were actually introduced into evidence. Dr. Hamdan
conceded orally that former colleagues had filed incident
reports about him before he affiliated with the defendant
hospital. He testified, however, that he did not remember
particular accusations from those incident reports, such as
over-sedating patients, behaving inappropriately at a
patient's bedside, or interacting poorly with staff. He
also testified that he could not recall allegations that he
had been condescending and non-collaborative or verbally
degrading of colleagues.
Hamdan's appeal highlights one particular portion of the
cross-examination about his reputation for dishonesty. The
focus was whether Dr. Hamdan had been placed on a six-month
probation at a Michigan hospital for lying to his peers and
behaving unprofessionally After the court had sustained Dr.