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Reid v. Temple University Hospital Episcopal Campus

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

November 7, 2017

CORONE REID, et al.
v.
TEMPLE UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL EPISCOPAL CAMPUS, et al.

          MEMORANDUM

          Bartle, J.

         Plaintiffs Corone Reid and Donny Odey commenced this action against defendants Temple University Hospital Episcopal Campus (“Episcopal”), Temple University Health System, Inc. (“TUHS”), Temple University (“TU”), and six individuals employed by Episcopal: (1) Chief Medical Officer William Dubin; (2) Unit Director Pedro Miazzo; (3) Director of Nursing Barbara Gennello; (4) Nurse Manager Eric Dutko; (5) Assistant Hospital Director of Human Resources Clara Galati; and (6) Nurse Manager Yasser Al-Khatib. Specifically, plaintiffs have asserted the following causes of action:

Count I: Discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 on behalf of Reid against defendants Episcopal, TUHS, TU, Dubin, Miazzo, Gennello, Dutko, and Galati.
Count II: Retaliation under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3730(h) on behalf of Reid against defendants Episcopal, TUHS, TU, Dubin, Miazzo, Gennello, Dutko, and Galati.
Count III: Common law breach of fiduciary duty claim on behalf of Reid against defendants Episcopal, TUHS, TU, Dubin, Miazzo, Gennello, Dutko, and Galati.
Count IV: Discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 on behalf of Odey against defendants Episcopal, TUHS, TU, and Al-Khatib.

         Plaintiffs seek back and front pay, compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys' fees and costs, and any other appropriate form of relief.

         Before the court is the partial motion of defendants to dismiss the amended complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         I.

         When deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008); Umland v. PLANCO Fin. Servs., Inc., 542 F.3d 59, 64 (3d Cir. 2008). We must then determine whether the pleading at issue “contain[s] sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim must do more than raise a “mere possibility of misconduct.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 211 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). Under this standard, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court may consider “allegations contained in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, and matters of public record.” Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993) (citing 5A Charles Allen Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1357 (2d ed. 1990)).

         II.

         The following facts from plaintiffs' amended complaint and its attached exhibits are taken as true for present purposes. Plaintiff Reid is a black woman of Jamaican national origin who was employed as a registered nurse at Episcopal from 2007 through November 2015. During her tenure at Episcopal, Reid received positive performance reviews and had no prior history of discipline. Reid states that she was a strenuous advocate for patient rights as well as the rights of fellow staff. Consequently, she regularly made both formal and informal complaints regarding what she perceived to be negligent or substandard patient care and working conditions at Episcopal. According to Reid, her relationship with upper management steadily declined over time due to the continuous stream of notices she sent regarding Episcopal's failure to comply with its own policies and to maintain adequate conditions for patients and staff.

         In particular, Reid became increasingly concerned with Episcopal's failure to implement properly its Treatment Plan and Review Policy (“TPARP”), which governed the process and substance related to patient treatment plans. According to Reid, defendants Dubin and Miazzo breached the TPARP by failing to participate in TPARP meetings and by delegating the performance of their duties under the TPARP to other staff. Reid also alleges that it was a common practice to backfill the forms required under the TPARP by filling in patient information at the time of release, which in many cases occurred days or even months after the form should have been completed. As a result, patients received services that were not medically necessary or appropriate, including improper medication. The failure to implement the TPARP increased the duration of patient stays and the frequency of patient readmissions, which in turn allegedly led to increased revenue for Episcopal.

         The amended complaint together with its attached exhibits details the events leading up to Reid's termination. While working a night shift on November 4, 2015, Reid became aware of a patient who she believed needed medication to stop itching. Benadryl had already been ordered for this patient for another purpose, but administration of the drug for a new purpose required a physician's approval. At Reid's request, another nurse who was working with Reid telephoned the resident psychiatrist on call to request permission to administer Benadryl for the patient's itching. According to that nurse, the resident stated: “OK, and I will be up there later.” After the nurse conveyed this information, Reid administered the Benadryl to the patient.

         The resident's version of this telephone call differs. The resident states she was informed on the call that Benadryl had already been administered for the patient's itching and was asked to put in an order for the medication. The resident replied that she would have to come to the unit to examine the patient. After doing so, the resident determined that administration of Benadryl for the itching was not warranted and refused to enter an order for the medication. The resident claims that Reid then became irate, raised her voice, and attempted to intimidate her.

         The resident reported this incident to defendant Dutko. On November 9, 2015, Dutko called Reid into his office and informed her that she was being terminated immediately. Dutko provided Reid with a written statement that identified the grounds for Reid's termination under Episcopal's Corrective Act/Discipline Policy as violation of Work Rule 1, which prohibits physical or verbal abuse of other staff or other significant unprofessional conduct, and Work Rule 7, which relates to gross neglect of duties. Both violations are grounds for immediate discharge under the policy. Reid's union submitted a grievance challenging her discharge. On January 26, 2016, defendant Galati issued a letter denying the grievance. In doing so, Galati cited only Reid's allegedly gross neglect of duties, in violation of Work Rule 7.

         Reid then proceeded to arbitration. After a hearing, the arbitrator concluded that Reid was discharged without just cause in violation of her collective bargaining agreement. Specifically, the arbitrator found that Reid violated Episcopal's Medication Order Policy and Verbal Order/Telephone Policy when she administered the Benadryl to the patient. Those policies state that “[v]erbal orders are only permissible when a patient requires unanticipated care that should not be delayed until a written order can be obtained.” They also provide that verbal orders may only be given by a resident or fellow to a nurse and that all verbal telephone orders will be documented and read back to the practitioner for confirmation. The arbitrator reasoned that Reid should not have sought a verbal order to administer the Benadryl because it was not an emergency situation, and that Reid should not have relied on another nurse to speak ...


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