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

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

September 3, 2019

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

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBERT M. DOW, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pro se Plaintiff Ricardo Lopez-Betancourt (“Plaintiff”) brings this action against Defendant Loyola University Chicago (“Defendant” or “Loyola”) for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Currently before the Court are two motions: Plaintiff's motion to amend-[88] is the sealed version, and [91] is the unsealed version-and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [59]. In the first motion, Plaintiff seeks to amend some of his own statements of undisputed material fact and three of his responses to Defendant's statements of undisputed material fact. Plaintiff's motion to amend [88] and [91] is granted. The Court reviewed and considered Plaintiff's amended statements of fact and responses to Defendant's statements of fact in [88] and [91], as well as Defendant's objections and rebuttals in [86] and [98], and the documents the parties cited. Ultimately, the Court concludes that none of the facts or responses at issue in the amendments are necessary or material to the disposition of resolving Defendant's motion for summary judgment [59], except those facts included in the Court's opinion below. In the second motion, Defendant seeks summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims. That motion [59] is granted and judgment will be entered in favor of Defendant and against Plaintiff on all claims. Civil case terminated.

         I. Background

         The Court takes the relevant facts primarily from the parties' Local Rule 56.1 statements, [61], [71], [73], [76], [77], and [85]. The following facts are undisputed except where a disagreement between the parties is noted.

         Plaintiff was enrolled as a medical student at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine (“Stritch”) beginning in August 2008. He was dismissed for the final time on May 14, 2014.[1] Defendant Loyola is a non-profit, private secondary institution and a place of public accommodation under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12181 et seq. (“ADA”), as a “facility operated by a private entity whose operations affect commerce” and a recipient of federal funding under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C § 794 et seq. Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to Title III of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over the Plaintiff's claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § §1331 and 1343. Venue is proper in this judicial district under 28 U.S.C. § 1391 because the events alleged in Plaintiff's complaint occurred within the Northern District of Illinois.

         In 2008, Plaintiff enrolled as a first-year medical student at Stritch. Stritch medical students are required to take the Step 1 examination (“Step 1 Exam”) of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (“USMLE”) prior to the start of their third year of medical school and to achieve a passing score by June of their third year. Stritch allows its medical students three opportunities to pass the Step 1 Exam. After three failures, students are dismissed from Stritch. Between August 2011 and May 2013, Plaintiff took the Step 1 Exam three times and failed each time. Consistent with its policy, Stritch dismissed Plaintiff. In a letter dated June 21, 2013, Loyola notified Plaintiff of his dismissal, his right to appeal the dismissal, and the process and deadline for appealing. On July 15, 2013, Plaintiff appeared before Stritch's Student Appeal Board to appeal his dismissal from Stritch.

         As a result of the appeals process, Loyola offered Plaintiff conditional readmission. The offer and terms were conveyed in a letter from James Mendez, Stritch's Associate Dean for Student Affairs, dated August 13, 2013. In the letter, Stritch offered Plaintiff “the opportunity to be considered for re-admission if ... [he] agree[d] to certain conditions.” [61] at 143. The letter listed eight conditions, the first of which was that Plaintiff was “required to sit for and pass the USMLE Step 1 exam no later than December 31, 2013.” [61] at 143. The eighth condition was as follows: “If you do not pass your fourth attempt on USMLE Step 1, you will not be allowed any further attempt. You will be dismissed with no right of re-appeal.” [61] at 143. The August 13 letter requested that Plaintiff confirm his acceptance of the terms by signing a copy of the letter and returning it to Stritch. Id. On August 23, 2013, Plaintiff signed the August 13 letter. Plaintiff testified during his deposition that when he signed the August 13 letter, it was “probably [his] belief” that if he did not pass the Step 1 Exam on his fourth attempt, he would be dismissed from Stritch. [61] at 129-130. Defendant contends, and Plaintiff does not dispute, that the August 13 letter is a contract under Illinois law.

         Plaintiff testified that he believed “the vast majority of the [August 13 letter] became worthless” after Stritch did not require Plaintiff to adhere to certain terms of the August 13 letter, such as the December 31, 2013 deadline for taking the Step 1 exam.[2] [61] at 130. However, the eighth condition in the August 13 letter was never changed. Plaintiff also testified that “nobody at Loyola ever mentioned this Point No. 8 on this document ever again, ” and that after he signed the August 13 letter, no one at Loyola communicated with him about a right to appeal a dismissal after his conditional readmission. [61] at 130.

         In October 2013, Plaintiff first met with Dr. Flavio Arana, a psychiatrist. Around that same time, Plaintiff also began seeing a psychologist, Dr. Carolyn Kanagy.

         Plaintiff repeatedly requested to extend the deadline in the August 13 letter to take the Step 1 Exam, and Stritch ultimately agreed to give Plaintiff until April 24, 2014 to take the exam. [61] at 183. Plaintiff took the Step 1 Exam for the fourth time on April 24, 2014. On May 14, 2014, the results for Plaintiff's fourth attempt at the Step 1 Exam were released. Plaintiff did not pass. As a result, on May 14, 2014, consistent with the August 13, 2013 letter, Plaintiff was dismissed from Stritch because he failed to pass the Step 1 Exam on his fourth attempt.

         Also on May 14, 2014, Dean Mendez sent two emails regarding Plaintiff. The first email informed Dr. Arana that:

[Plaintiff] finally sat for his final attempt at Step 1 last month. The results were released today and, unfortunately, [Plaintiff] did not pass. His score was 180 and passing is 188. This was his fourth attempt and I am forced to dismiss him again. This time he won't be able to appeal for readmission.

         [61] at 23. The second email (the “May 2014 Email”) was to Dr. George Plamoottil, Plaintiff's former classmate. Dean Mendez wrote:

[Plaintiff] finally sat for his final attempt at Step 1 last month. The results were released today and, unfortunately, [Plaintiff] did not pass. His score was 180 and passing is 188. This was his fourth attempt and I am forced to dismiss him again. This time he won't be able to appeal for readmission.

         [61] at 145. Dr. Plamoottil testified that, within two weeks of receiving that email, he either forwarded it or read it verbatim to Plaintiff. [61] at 176. Plaintiff denies that Dr. Plamoottil did either. [76] at 5; [77] at 21.

         Plaintiff received an email from USMLE on May 14 stating that his score was available, but he did not check his score. [61] at 132. The next day, May 15, Plaintiff returned a voicemail from Beth Sontag, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs at Stritch, and during that phone call he learned that he had failed the Step 1 Exam and asked Sontag to look up his score. [61] at 132-33. Plaintiff learned from Sontag that he had failed the Step 1 Exam. When asked if, at that time, he was concerned that he had been ...


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