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Li v. Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation

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

March 23, 2018

Linda Li, M.D., Plaintiff,
v.
Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MANISH S. SHAH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Linda Li is a doctor whose license was suspended by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Li alleges that IDFPR suspended her license based on a report without foundation from the Rockford police about her mental instability and the results of a faulty psychiatric evaluation performed by a doctor at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. In the amended complaint, Li brings claims against defendants-IDFPR and two of its officials, the City of Rockford and one of its police officers, the hospital and one of its doctors, and Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science-alleging theories of constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and intentional infliction of emotional distress. All defendants other than the university move to dismiss the complaint. For the following reasons, I grant defendants' motions to dismiss.

         I. Legal Standards

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) argues that the complaint has not met that requirement and “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” That is to say, even if all the facts alleged in the complaint were true, it would not be enough to establish a plausibly viable cause of action. Because Li is pro se, I construe her complaint liberally and hold it to a less stringent standard than a complaint drafted by lawyers. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Nevertheless, to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain factual allegations that plausibly suggest a right to relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         I assume that all of the facts alleged in the complaint are true and draw reasonable inferences from those facts in Li's favor, but I am not required to accept as true the complaint's legal conclusions. Id. at 678-79. In considering a motion to dismiss, I am limited to reviewing the complaint, “documents attached to the complaint, documents that are critical to the complaint and referred to in it, and information that is subject to proper judicial notice.” Phillips v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 714 F.3d 1017, 1019-20 (7th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). I may take judicial notice of court filings “when the accuracy of those documents reasonably cannot be questioned.” Parungao v. Cmty. Health Sys., Inc., 858 F.3d 452, 457 (7th Cir. 2017).

         II. Facts

         Li is a board-certified physician who owns two pain management practices in Illinois. [7] ¶ 15.[1] She is Chinese-American. [7] ¶ 61; [40] at 2. In January 2014, Li reported that she was the victim of theft and property damage, and Rockford Police Officer Elizabeth Hughes was assigned to investigate Li's reports. [7] ¶ 16. Hughes did not accept the evidence Li tried to offer and instead determined that Li's reports were unfounded and lacked evidence, referring to Li as delusional. [7] ¶ 19. Hughes then reported Li to IDFPR. [7] ¶ 17.

         IDFPR is a state administrative agency that is responsible for a variety of professional licenses. [7] ¶ 6. During the relevant time period, IDFPR's employees included Laura Forester, the Chief Medical Prosecutor, and Vladimir Lozovskiy, a Staff Medical Prosecutor. [7] ¶ 8-9. Once Forester received the complaint from Hughes, she ordered Li to undergo a psychological evaluation with Dr. Ashraf Helmy, a staff forensic psychiatrist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. [7] ¶¶ 12, 20, 23. Helmy was also associated with Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and Department of Psychiatry. [7] ¶ 12. In March 2014, Helmy conducted a psychiatric evaluation of Li for about two-and-a-half hours. [7] ¶ 23. Despite telling Li and her father that Li's cognitive functioning was “fine, ” Helmy made a finding that Li suffered from a delusional disorder. [7] ¶¶ 25-26. In making his finding, Helmy did not review any evidence from Li or solicit statements from any of Li's family members or co-workers. [7] ¶¶ 23, 25.

         On April 1, 2014, IDFPR suspended Li's medical license based on the reports of Hughes and Helmy. [7] ¶ 29. IDFPR published the suspension on its website. [7] ¶ 31. Li was not afforded a hearing prior to the suspension of her license. [7] ¶ 30. Li was also evaluated by other mental health professionals, who did not find that Li had a delusional disorder. [7] ¶¶ 27-28, 32, 38. In around December 2015, Li had a hearing regarding her license, but the hearing concluded in IDFPR's refusal to reinstate Li's license absent severe restrictions, which Li ultimately declined. [7] ¶¶ 34-36. In April 2016, IDFPR required Li to undergo a second psychiatric evaluation that was finally conducted in January 2017. [7] ¶¶ 40, 44. At the second evaluation, the psychiatrist found that Li does not suffer from a delusional disorder and recommended that Li's license be reinstated. [7] ¶ 44.

         On March 15, 2016, Li filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Cook County, alleging a claim of “psychiatric medical malpractice” against Helmy, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and Northwestern University Medical Center. [37-1] at 17.[2]After a few iterations of dismissals and amendments, the third amended complaint brought claims of professional negligence, psychiatric abuse based on the equal protection act, fraud and misrepresentation, and libel and slander against Helmy and claims of failure to ensure public safety against the university and the hospital. [37-1] at 154-166. The state court dismissed Li's third amended complaint with respect to Helmy, the hospital, and the university with prejudice in February 2017. [37-1] at 175. The dismissal was based on several grounds that largely fall into the bucket of “failure to state a claim, ” including that Helmy's statements were entitled to absolute privilege, Helmy did not have a physician-patient relationship with Li, [3]and the other claims were not cognizable under Illinois law. [31-7] at 172-75.

         III. Analysis

         Defendants rely primarily on the affirmative defenses of sovereign immunity, the statutes of limitations, and res judicata. Complaints do not have to anticipate affirmative defenses, and ordinarily, complaints should not be dismissed at this stage. Parungao, 858 F.3d at 457. “But when it is ‘clear from the face of the complaint, and matters of which the court may take judicial notice, that the plaintiff's claims are barred as a matter of law, ' dismissal is appropriate.” Id. (citation omitted).

         A. IDFPR and its Officials

         Li's claims against IDFPR and its officials, Forester and Lozovskiy, stem from their suspension of her medical license without providing her an opportunity to respond, in violation of her rights to due process and equal protection. These claims take the form of § 1983 actions and an action for the intentional infliction of ...


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