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Raithatha v. University of Pikeville

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, Pikeville

October 13, 2017

RAVI RAITHATHA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNIVERSITY OF PIKEVILLE, et al., DEFENDANTS.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          EDWARD B. ATKINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, Ravi Raithatha, brought this action alleging that Defendants-the University of Pikeville d/b/a/ the Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Boyd Buser, and Dr. Tracy Soltesz-discriminated against him on the basis of his race and national origin when he was expelled from the University of Pikeville's College of Osteopathic Medicine. [R. 1-2; R. 1-1 at 3- 6]. Defendants seek summary judgment, [R. 37], and the matter has been fully briefed. For the reasons that follow, this Court will grant the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and dismiss this action with prejudice.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Prior to his admission to the University of Pikeville Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine, hereinafter “the College, ” Plaintiff had been expelled from the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine for poor academic performance. [R. 37-1 at 5 ¶ 2 (citing R. 35, Deposition of Ravi Raithatha, at 8-9); see also R. 35-1 at 6, 8]. Plaintiff was admitted to the College for the fall 2012 semester, but, because of his academic history, his admission was permitted only following the completion of multiple courses at Eastern Kentucky University and a personal meeting with Dr. Buser, where Plaintiff's academic integrity and personal character were evaluated. [R. 37-1 at 6 ¶ 3, 4]. Plaintiff's performance for the first two years of his attendance at the College was satisfactory. [R. 33 at 28-29].

         During the spring 2015 semester, as a part of his third-year curriculum, Plaintiff was required to complete clinical rotations at Grandview Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio. While there, he was required to record his activities in a “log” for purposes of grading. [R. 37-1 at 6 ¶ 2; R. 37-8 at 12, (citing R. 35, Deposition of Ravi Raithatha, at 10)]. Plaintiff falsified his case logs for that clinical rotation, and he admitted as much before the College's Promotion and Matriculation Committee at a hearing on April 8, 2015. [R. 37-1 at 2; R. 37-12 (“I should never have logged days in which I was not working in the office, and agree that I should be punished for my actions.”); R. 42 at 2 (“Plaintiff admitted his error.”)]. The following day, the Committee recommended that Raithatha be given a failing grade, placed on temporary academic probation, permanent disciplinary probation, suspended from the College for six months, and required to enroll in an ethics course. [R. 37-6; R. 37-11; R. 37-12; R. 37-13].

         Before the punishments were finally imposed, Plaintiff appealed the Committee's recommendation to Dr. Buser by submitting a letter and making a personal appearance. [R. 37-12; R. 37-13]. On May 4, 2015, the recommended punishments were approved by Dr. Buser as within the authority of the Promotion and Matriculation Committee. [R. 37-13; see also R. 37-6 at 7 (outlining the Promotion and Matriculation Committee's authority to punish troubled students)].

         Although Plaintiff remained on academic and disciplinary probation, he was removed from his suspension five months early, on June 15, 2015. [R. 37-14; R. 42-1]. Dr. Soltesz worked with Raithatha to aid him in enrolling in the ethics course required by the Promotion and Matriculation Committee and Dr. Buser. [R. 37-15]. And, on request, Plaintiff was permitted by Dr. Buser to resume clinical rotations at the Hazard ARH Regional Medical Center on August 31, 2015, months ahead of schedule. [R. 35 at 24, 29 ¶ 15-16; R. 37-18; R. 42-3]. Before he could perform his rotations, however, Hazard ARH Regional Medical Center required Plaintiff to pass a drug test. [R. 35 at 31 ¶ 1-6; see also R. 37-8 at 10; R. 33 at 40]. Plaintiff failed. [R. 35-27; R. 35 at 31].

         Due to the fact that Plaintiff failed Hazard ARH's drug test, Hazard ARH dismissed Plaintiff from its campus, and Plaintiff was unable to complete his clinical rotation. [R. 35 at 31 ¶ 15-17]. Plaintiff was again called for a hearing before the Promotion and Matriculation Committee on September 23, 2015. [R. 35 at 33-36; R. 37-19]. Following the hearing-where Plaintiff admitted to using drugs while already on academic and disciplinary probation, and suspended from the College-the Committee recommended his expulsion. [R. 35 at 33-36; R. 37-19; R. 37-1 at 12 (“I mean what you said is true . . . I know it was a huge mistake . . . I did it.”)]. Plaintiff appealed the Committee's recommendation to Dr. Buser, and on October 13, 2015, Dr. Buser met with him to discuss the appeal. [R. 35 at 36 ¶ 10-11; R. 37-19; R. 37-20; see also R. 37-6 at 4-5 (indicating the use of drugs to be in direct contravention of College policy)]. Dr. Buser upheld Plaintiff's expulsion as within the authority of the Promotion and Matriculation Committee. [R. 35 at 37 ¶ 6- 8; R. 37-20; see also R. 37-6 at 6-8 (outlining many reasons for which students may be expelled from the College, including “[f]ailure of more than one clinical rotation”); R. 37-8 at 10 (“A positive [drug] test result may become grounds for dismissal.”)].

         Thereafter, Plaintiff filed this suit, alleging he was “subject to disparate treatment due to his race and national origin.” [R. 1-1 at 4 ¶ 15].

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         “A party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense-or the part of each claim or defense-on which summary judgment is sought.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Id. In making the determination as to whether summary judgment is warranted, “a court must view the evidence ‘in the light most favorable to the opposing party.'” Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (quoting Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970)). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Id. (quoting Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). In such a case, summary judgment is warranted. Alabama v. North Carolina, 560 U.S. 330, 344 (2010); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         “[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). But there is “no express or implied requirement in Rule 56 that the moving party support its motion with affidavits or other similar materials negating the opponent's claim.” Id. As such, in some cases, the moving party may be “‘entitled to a judgment as a matter of law' because the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof.” Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56). Such a motion “therefore requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324 (internal quotation marks omitted). This is so because “[o]ne of the principal purposes of the summary judgment rule is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses.” Id. at 323-24. “[T]he existence of a mere scintilla of evidence in support of the non-moving party's position will not be sufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the non-moving party.” Sutherland v. Mich. Dept. of Treasury, 344 F.3d 603, 613 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251 (1986)).

         I. COUNT ONE: ...


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