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Kimberg v. University of Scranton

January 29, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley


Before the court for disposition are the defendants' motions for summary judgment. The motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for disposition.


Defendant University of Scranton and Defendant Wyoming Valley Health Care System Inc. (hereinafter "Wyoming Valley") jointly offer a Nurse Anesthesia Program (hereinafter "NA Program"). (Pl. Statement of Material Fact 1).*fn1 Plaintiff Terence Kimberg enrolled in the NA Program in August 2004. The program required that plaintiff take courses at the University and perform clinical work at various local hospitals. (Id. at 2). For each day that he was on a clinical site, the program required that plaintiff complete a clinical evaluation. (Id. at 3). A certified registered nurse anesthetist, (hereinafter "CRNA") who supervised him on his days of clinical work, evaluated his performance as part of the clinical evaluation. (Id. at 4).

As discussed more fully below, plaintiff had some difficulties with the clinical portion of the NA Program and was placed on academic probation. Eventually, he was dismissed from the NA program and dismissed from the University.

Plaintiff then instituted the instant action. Originally, the complaint asserted four causes of action: 1) breach of contract; 2) breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; 3) denial of due process; and 4) tortious interference with contract. Plaintiff also made claims for punitive damages. The defendants filed motions to dismiss. We granted the motions to the extent that counts 2, 3 and 4 and the punitive damages claim were dismissed. (Doc. 30, Memorandum and Order dated February 2, 2007). The sole remaining count, therefore, is the breach of contract count. At the conclusion of discovery, the defendants filed motions for summary judgment, bringing the case to its present posture. Jurisdiction

This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to the diversity jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The plaintiff is a citizen of the Republic of Cameroon, and the defendants are citizens of Pennsylvania. (Compl. ¶ 1 -4). Because we are sitting in diversity, the substantive law of Pennsylvania shall apply to the instant case. Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 158 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)).

Standard of review

Granting summary judgment is proper if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Knabe v. Boury, 114 F.3d 407, 410 n.4 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)). "[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original).

In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must examine the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. International Raw Materials, Ltd. v. Stauffer Chemical Co., 898 F.2d 946, 949 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248 (1986). A fact is material when it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. Where the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the non-movant's burden of proof at trial. Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, who must go beyond its pleadings, and designate specific facts by the use of affidavits, depositions, admissions, or answers to interrogatories showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324. Discussion

Both Defendant University of Scranton and Wyoming Valley Healthcare have filed motions for summary judgment. The issues that are raised in each motion are identical in some instances and interrelated in others. We will thus discuss the two motions together.*fn2

The gist of the motions for summary judgment is that plaintiff cannot establish a breach of contract in the instant case. This issue can be broken down into the following sub-issues: Was plaintiff properly dismissed from the clinical program? Was plaintiff properly dismissed from the University? and Was plaintiff wrongly denied counsel at his due process hearing? We will address these issues in seriatim.

I. Dismissal from the clinical program

The relationship between the University, a private college, and the plaintiff, a student at that college, is contractual in nature and governed by the written materials provided to the plaintiff throughout his enrollment. See Swartley v. Hoffner, 734 A.2d 915, 919 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1999) (explaining that "[t]he contract between a private institution and a student is comprised of the written guidelines, policies, and procedures as contained in the written materials distributed to the student over the course of their enrollment in the institution."). These materials include written guidelines ...

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