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Hunter v. Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

April 18, 2017

GREGG SPAULDING HUNTER
v.
LOUISIANA STATE BOARD OF MEDICAL EXAMINERS ET AL.

         SECTION: “H” (1)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's remaining claim (Doc. 42). For the following reasons, Motion is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Dr. Gregg Spaulding Hunter, brought this suit alleging that Defendants, the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners (“the LSBME” or “the Board”) and its members, Mark Dawson, J. Michael Burdine, Kweli Amusa, Joseph Busby, Roderick Clark, Kenneth Farris, Christy Valentine, Cecilia Mouton (collectively, “Individual Defendants”), wrongfully suspended his license to practice as a certified psychiatrist based on the complaints of one patient. Plaintiff alleges that the LSBME failed to conduct any investigation or hearing regarding the veracity of the complaint prior to requiring that he submit to a costly mental evaluation and later suspending his license.

         Plaintiff brought a Section 1983 claim against the LSBME and the Individual Defendants both individually and in their official capacities alleging a violation of his procedural due process rights for their failure to conduct an investigation or hearing on the veracity of the former patient's complaint prior to his suspension. Plaintiff sought compensatory and injunctive relief, including the reinstatement of his license.

         After this Court's ruling on the Defendants' Motions to Dismiss raising immunity arguments, Plaintiff's only remaining claim is for injunctive relief against the Individual Defendants in their official capacity. The Individual Defendants have now moved for summary judgment on that claim. Plaintiff opposes and seeks an entry of judgment in his favor. The parties agree that there are no material issues of fact. This Court will consider their arguments in turn.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”[1] A genuine issue of fact exists only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”[2]

         In determining whether the movant is entitled to summary judgment, the Court views facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draws all reasonable inferences in his favor.[3] “If the moving party meets the initial burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to produce evidence or designate specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial.”[4] Summary judgment is appropriate if the non-movant “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case.”[5] “In response to a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the non-movant must identify specific evidence in the record and articulate the manner in which that evidence supports that party's claim, and such evidence must be sufficient to sustain a finding in favor of the non-movant on all issues as to which the non-movant would bear the burden of proof at trial.”[6] “We do not . . . in the absence of any proof, assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts.”[7] Additionally, “[t]he mere argued existence of a factual dispute will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion.”[8]

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff alleges that the Individual Defendants' decision to suspend his medical license deprived him of a property interest without due process. Defendants argue that Plaintiff received ample due process prior to the suspension of his medical license. A detailed overview of the facts of this case is helpful.

         Many years prior to this litigation, the LSBME found Plaintiff, a licensed physician and psychiatrist, to be chemically dependent on controlled or mood-altering substances and he underwent in-patient treatment. He successfully completed a monitoring program in 2005. In 2008, however, he again tested positive for mood-altering substances and was asked to undergo in-patient examination. Plaintiff's license was suspended when he initially refused to undergo examination, however, he eventually submitted to in-patitent treatment at Pine Grove Behavioral and Health Services. During his stay at Pine Grove, the Board was made aware of a case against Plaintiff in which a former patient alleged that he had a sexual relationship with her in 2003 and 2004. His treatment at Pine Grove included participation in a male group therapy concerning sexual matters, and he was later discharged with the recommendation of ongoing therapy and monitoring. Plaintiff thereafter completed a program focusing on professional boundaries. In December 2009, Plaintiff signed a consent order with the LSBME for the reinstatement of his license, which contained several conditions, including a five-year term of probation.

         In March 2014, the Board received a complaint from one of Plaintiff's patients, identified as A.B., in which she alleged that Plaintiff had asked sexually inappropriate questions and made sexually inappropriate comments during her four therapy office visits with Plaintiff. After an investigator deemed A.B. to be credible, the LSBME recommended that, as part of its investigation into the incident, Plaintiff voluntarily undergo a mental evaluation at his own expense. After Plaintiff failed to schedule an evaluation, the LSBME ordered that he do so. Plaintiff argued that he could not afford the examination and therefore did not comply ...


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