Dr. Ramsey’s wrongful termination suit is dismissed

The federal court has dismissed Dr. Gary Ramsey’s wrongful termination lawsuit against the CNMI government, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., and others.

U.S. District Court for the NMI designated Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood ruled that Ramsey has failed to state a claim in his first, second, and fourth causes of action “because he does not have a property or liberty interest in the initial grant or privileges or renewal of privileges.”

In granting the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case, Tydingco-Gatewood said the remaining federal cause of action in Ramsey’s lawsuit “does implicate a property interest in existing privileges.”

However, the judge said, because that right was not clearly established at the time of the violation, defendants have qualified immunity.

Tydingco-Gatewood said the court declines to exercise jurisdiction over the remaining Commonwealth-law claims in the lawsuit, and therefore grants the motions to dismiss those claims without prejudice.

Dismissed without prejudice means Ramsey can re-file the claims in the future.

The judge then directed the clerk of court to close the case.

Ramsey is a physician specializing in obstetrics, gynecology, and women’s health. He worked at the Commonwealth Health Center from 1999 to July 2007, then at the Department of Public Health until September 2010.

Ramsey alleges in his lawsuit that the Commonwealth and CHCC, which runs CHC, wrongfully denied him medical privileges at the hospital.

He sued the CNMI government, CHCC, CHCC chief executive officer Esther Muña, and several other present and former hospital officials.

In November 2017, Ramsey filed a first amended complaint, where he had four federal causes of action based on claims of unlawful deprivation of property and liberty without due process against the Commonwealth, CHC, and several individuals employed by CHC.

He also brought Commonwealth-law claims for tortious interference with contract, tortious interference with covenant of good faith and fair dealing, breach of official duty, conspiracy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Ramsey’s first cause of action was for unlawful deprivation of property without due process against defendants in their official capacity for the wrongful denial of his current right to hospital privileges at CHC.

He asked for a declaratory judgment “that his privileges are presently in force at CHC” and an injunction prohibiting the defendants from refusing to recognize his privileges.

Ramsey’s next three causes of action were federal-law claims for damages. The second cause of action was against then-Public Health secretary Joseph Kevin Villagomez for wrongful deprivation of hospital privileges from Dec. 15, 2009, until Dec. 15, 2011.

His third cause of action was against Muña and unnamed defendants for wrongfully interfering with the exercise of his privileges to access and update medical records in October 2013.

Ramsey’s final federal cause of action was against Muña, head of CHC OB/GYN department Dr. Jeanolivia Grant, CHCC Medical Affairs director Sherleen Osman, and CHCC legal counsel Nancy Gottfried for failure to “process, approve, acknowledge and recognize renewal of his hospital privileges.”

Osman filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and asserting she is entitled to qualified immunity.

Osman argues that Ramsey did not allege sufficient acts that she deprived him of any right. Moreover, she asserts that she is entitled to qualified immunity since Ramsey has no clearly established interest in hospital privileges.

The Commonwealth filed a motion to dismiss the first cause of action for failure to state a claim and the Commonwealth-law causes of action for lack of jurisdiction.

As to the federal cause of action for unlawful deprivation of property, the Commonwealth argues that there is no cognizable property right in the renewal of hospital privileges, without which Ramsey cannot state a plausible claim for declaratory of injunctive relief.

Grant filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim because hospital privileges are neither a property right nor a liberty interest.

Additionally, Grant asserted qualified immunity.

Muna, Villagomez, and Gottfried each filed a joinder in Grant’s motion to dismiss.

Tydingco-Gatewood heard the motions last June 29.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com
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