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UNTRACHT v. WEST JERSEY HEALTH SYS.

September 10, 1992

STEVEN H. UNTRACHT, M.D. Plaintiff
v.
WEST JERSEY HEALTH SYSTEM, et al. Defendants


IRENAS


The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOSEPH E. IRENAS

IRENAS, District Judge

 This action comes before the court upon defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Because the court finds that Dr. Untracht's claims are barred by prior manifestations of this same litigation, defendants' motion is granted.

 I. Procedural and Factual Background

 This dispute arose from plaintiff's suspension from staff privileges on the Garden State Medical Staff, which defendants claim was the result of plaintiff's care and treatment of a patient, Rose Reed, who later died. Dr. Untracht's basic position is that his suspension was the culmination of anti-competitive, conspiratorial efforts of various doctors in the West Jersey System including, Dr. Robert Weimann, Dr. Harold Friedman, President of Garden State *fn1" and Dr. Philip Aronow, Chairman of Surgery at Garden State.

 On April 3, 1990, plaintiff was suspended from staff privileges on the Garden State Medical Staff. On April 26, 1990, plaintiff was suspended from staff privileges at the remaining West Jersey divisions, and on April 30, 1990 plaintiff was suspended from the Summit Surgical Center.

 The dispute then proceeded through what appears to have been a lengthy and complex series of administrative hearings under West Jersey's Fair Hearing Plan. The hearings were completed in February, 1991, after 37 hearing days, thousands of pages of transcript and almost 200 exhibits. In its written report, the hearing panel concluded that the suspension had been justified, but recommended that Dr. Untracht be restored to full staff privileges after his completion of a supervised proctorship of 100 cases.

 After his suspensions, Dr. Untracht filed suits in both this court and the state court in Burlington County. This action represents the third filing of essentially the same complaint by Dr. Untracht.

 In the first instance, Dr. Untracht filed his complaint in this court on June 20, 1990, against most of the same defendants alleging that the hospital disciplinary actions against him were taken for malicious and anti-competitive reasons. That complaint, which sought immediate injunctive relief, asserted claims under the Health Care Quality Improvement Act of 1986, state and federal antitrust laws, due process violations, breach of contract and fiduciary duties and tortious interference with prospective economic advantage.

 When plaintiff failed to obtain the temporary restraining order, he voluntarily dismissed his federal complaint on June 22, 1990, and on the same day re-filed substantially the same complaint, absent the federal antitrust claim, in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Burlington County. In the state court, Dr. Untracht asserted claims for violations of due process, breach of contract, New Jersey antitrust law (unfair competition and predatory competition), tortious interference with prospective economic advantage, casting false light, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and breach of fiduciary duty.

 By comparison, in the current complaint, filed on April 2, 1992, Dr. Untracht has asserted claims for: violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Health Care Quality Improvement Act of 1986, 42 U.S.C. § 11101 et. seq., violations of Sections one and two of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1 and 2, and tortious interference with prospective economic advantage.

 After the West Jersey hearing panel issued its report, the defendants moved to dismiss the complaint before the Chancery Division. In orders dated November 1, 1991 and January 22, 1992, Judge Gottlieb granted defendants' motion, dismissing the complaint with prejudice. Although his only opinions appear to have been stated on the record(s), his orders reveal that he determined that the record contains "sufficient reliable evidence . . . to justify discipline taken against Dr. Untracht; and that the proceedings were fair and afforded Dr. Untract [sic] due process." Order Dismissing Plaintiff's Complaint in Part, New Jersey Superior Court, Chancery Div., Civ. No. C-124-90 (November 1, 1991).

 II. Summary Judgment Standard

 The standard for granting a motion for summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 56(c) is demanding and stringent. Wilson v. Sullivan, 709 F.Supp. 1351 (D.N.J. 1989). Under Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 56(c), "summary judgment is proper 'if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show chat 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. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The Court has stated that a party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986) (citation omitted) (internal quotations omitted).

 At the summary judgment stage, it is not the role of the judge to weigh the evidence or to evaluate its credibility but to determine "whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 249. There is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for that party. Id. Although the moving party bears the initial burden of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, there is no requirement in the Rule that the moving party support its motion with affidavits or other similar materials negating the opponent's claim. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.

 The substantive law governing the dispute will determine which facts are material, and only disputes over those facts "that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Finally, summary judgment should be granted unless a dispute over a material fact is genuine, which the Court ...


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