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2/19/2013 5:00:00 PM
Hospital attorneys ask court to dismiss Sahlolbei's federal suit

Marty Bachman


BLYTHE - Attorneys for Palo Verde Hospital and several past and present Healthcare District Board members as well as former CEO Peter Klune, asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the hospital's chief of staff, Dr. Hossain Sahlolbei, in a response to his suit filed last week.

Sahlolbei's suit claims the defendants violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and seeks injunctive relief and damages for alleged civil rights violations.

The motion for dismissal was based on four primary legal contentions: That Sahlolbei' s complaint fails to state a viable claim because he cannot identify any substantive harm he has already incurred as a result of the defendants' actions, much less harm that arises from a constitutional violation. Second, because the state court lawsuit filed by the hospital (at the board's direction) is relatively new.

"Dr. Sahlolbei cannot demonstrate he can or will be the prevailing party, and that in the process, he will suffer substantive harm," the motion contends. "Moreover, a peer review proceeding - one that Dr. Sahlolbei requested -is now pending at the Hospital. No substantive action harming or limiting Dr. Sahlolbei's medical staff privileges has occurred."

The motion notes that the Healthcare District Board has recently voted to rescind the approval to enter into an exclusive contract for surgical services, which makes the claim of retaliation moot.

"Because any substantive harm Dr. Sahlolbei can or will incur from Defendants' actions is speculative, hypothetical, and will not occur until some point in the future, the present lawsuit is "not" ripe, and should be dismissed," the motion states.

The third requirement for a viable claim is proof the defendant is a "state actor," which the defendants, according to the motion, were not. The fourth contention was that the defendants are "absolutely" immune from liability in a lawsuit where their potential liability arises from "votes" they make in a legislative-like or quasi judicial setting.

"Dr. Sahlolbei's claim is not viable, and his lawsuit should be dismissed because his primary substantive contention is that Defendants "voted"/ decided to (a) file a civil lawsuit for fraud against him; (b) deferred his application for reappointment to the Medical Staff for a full term of two years, instead extending his staff privileges for another three months pending an investigation; and (c) approved a measure that would permit the Hospital to enter into an exclusive contract for surgical services," the motion reads. "In the alternative, should this Court not dismiss Dr. Sahlolbei's lawsuit on the grounds set forth immediately above, this Court should invoke the Younger abstention doctrine and stay this entire action pending the outcome of Dr. Sahlolbei's administrative peer review proceedings at the Hospital, any subsequent judicial review, and the results of the state court civil lawsuit."

According to hospital lawyers, under Younger, where a state administrative or court proceeding is pending which implicates important state interests and provides the federal court plaintiff with an adequate opportunity to assert his federal claims, the District Court must refuse to exercise subject matter jurisdiction.

"Because that is the case here, this Court should simply dismiss or stay this lawsuit until Dr. Sahlolbei' s state proceedings end," the motion contends. "Consequently, this Court should dismiss Dr. Sahlolbei's lawsuit in its entirety, or in the alternative, stay his claims under Younger.

Hospital attorneys claim that Sahlolbei's lawsuit asserts unsworn allegations including retaliation for his attacks on board members at public meetings.

"Dr. Sahlolbei likes to present himself as an advocate of improving the quality of healthcare delivery at the Hospital," the motion states. "He maintains that on numerous occasions he has publicly criticized "the culture of cronyism and corruption" he contends exists at the hospital.

Sahlolbei accused the defendants of retaliating against him by "unlawfully holding up his application to be reappointed to the Medical Staff." He alleged that former Board President Jim Carney sent him a letter stating that his reappointment application was incomplete because Sahlolbei had not provided the board with information responsive to an allegation that he was involved in a "fee-splitting" scheme with hospital anesthesiologist, Dr. Brad Barth. Sahlolbei responded that the board lacked the authority to declare his reappointment application incomplete and stated that the "fee-splitting" charges were without merit. He also claimed that the filing of a civil lawsuit for fraud against him in Riverside County Superior Court, arising from his professional and financial relationship with Barth, was retaliatory as well, as was the former board's action to contract out surgical services.

In November, Sahlolbei had his privileges at Palo Verde Hospital extended for three months in order to provide him with time to turn over the information concerning his contract with Barth, subject to the condition that his privileges would end if the hospital entered into an exclusive contract for surgical services with another provider.

Sahlolbei's attorneys argued that the board, under the bylaws, could only approve or deny his privileges for two years. The motion argues that Sahlolbei still has privileges therefore no harm has occurred to him.

In January, a new board ended the search for a surgical contractor and the medical staff, which had won a temporary restraining order to prevent surgery from being contracted out, dropped its suit. Again, the motion claims that he can show no damages.

The motion asked the court to examine Sahlolbei's two allegations of serious misconduct purportedly engaged in by defendants.

"First, Dr. Sahlolbei is unhappy that in October, 2012, the Hospital filed a civil lawsuit against him, asserting claims of fraud," the motion states. "Second, Dr. Sahlolbei maintains that during the fall of 2012, the Board improperly refused to provide him with a full two-year reappointment to the Medical Staff, instead providing him with "just" a three-month reappointment. However, a reasonable explanation of the Board's decision to grant a three month reappointment is that it maintained the status quo (and allowed Dr. Sahlolbei to continue practicing medicine at the Hospital) while also allowing him more time to provide the Board with information and documents concerning his professional and financial relationship with Dr. Barth, in the hope that such additional information would allow the accusations of financial misconduct asserted against Dr. Sahlolbei to finally be put to rest."

The motions states that while the defendants allegedly asked Sahlolbei not to publicly criticize the board and that one defendant allegedly touched him on the shoulder on one occasion, neither of the two actions taken by the board (or any of the defendants), rose to the level of being a deprivation of a constitutionally protected personal or property interest right, because Sahlolbei cannot demonstrate, at the present time, that he has suffered any tangible harm.

Using the example of the hospital's fraud lawsuit against Sahlolbei, attorneys for the hospital noted that the case had not yet gone to trial, and without a decision on the merits,

Sahlolbei cannot demonstrate that the lawsuit was wrongfully filed, that it improperly and unlawfully deprived him of a constitutionally-protected personal or property interest right, and that he has been harmed as a result.

"The same is true of Dr. Sahlolbei's contention that Defendants have acted improperly by refusing, to date, to approve his application for a full, two-year reappointment to the Hospital's Medical Staff," the motion states. "The fact is that at no time relevant did Dr. Sahlolbei lose the right to practice medicine at the Hospital. He never was suspended from the Medical Staff, and never had any encumbrances or restrictions placed on his practice of medicine at the Hospital. At the present time, therefore, Dr. Sahlolbei has not been the "victim" of any "negative" action taken against him by the Defendants that he can establish has already caused him harm."

The motion contends that since the board's vote to suspend all efforts to move forward in identifying an exclusive provider contract for surgery services and transportation services at the hospital makes Sahlolbei's claim of retaliation moot.

"Sahlolbei cannot demonstrate Defendants' conduct has already caused him tangible harm to his personal and/or property interests," the motion states. "Accordingly, this Court should dismiss his lawsuit in its entirety."

Sahlolbei's lawsuit was filed in United States District Court Central District of California. A March 18 hearing is scheduled in the courtroom of Judge Terry J. Hatter, Jr. Go to pvvt.com to view the hospital's response and other related documents.

Download the Motion to Dismiss 1

Download the Motion to Dismiss 2

Download the declarations submitted

Download Interim-CEO Dennis Rutherford's declaration

Download the Memorandum of Points

Related Stories:
• Former hospital officials trial against hospital district, members began April 21
• Former hospital officials trial against hospital district, members begins Tuesday
• TIMES EDITORIAL: Conflicts at Palo Verde Hospital will soon cost someone their life
• Emergency transport helicopters to be banned from landing at hospital
• Medical Staff drops lawsuit against hospital board
• TIMES EDITORIAL: At Palo Verde Hospital: Another one bites the dust
• Healthcare District Board votes 3-2 to fire CEO Peter Klune
• Fired hospital chief had proposed basing helicopter at hospital prior to dismissal

Related Links:
• Sahlolbei sues hospital in federal court
• Former DA warns board members of potential conflicts
• Sahlolbei no stranger to courtrooms: Hospital Chief of Staff has sued at least 17 people in Riversid


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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Article comment by: Aj McKay

No big deal. I simply posted my statement to show a couple of people how predictable the responses may be. And also how anyone who posted what I did would of been attacked to a certain degree. If you read my comment closely its just over one sentence. Long. How do I spark more response than the article itself without trying? With words taken from past posts at that. To be continued I guess . . . . Lol

Posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Article comment by: just me@Aj

Aj if it will relieve your depression about the words and terms puppets etc.not being used,I will make your day..I feel sure the puppets,twins,blind mice,Dr S ,Hudson,Trina,mec,were devastated when they recieved this..This is why the three blind mice were all sick and had to cancel last weeks meeting...you feel better now..

Posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Article comment by: @Aj McKay and just me

And your point is.....? Not too transparent to dummies.

Posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Article comment by: Blythe's Entertainer U2CaBeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Sure, try to Silence the GOOD Dr. so the truth wil not come out in court and be made PUBLIC and for the RECORD! Pull their covers in Court Dr. S!!! GOOD LUCK ON YOUR CASE!!!!

Posted: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Article comment by: Aj McKay

I bet we won't see the words or terms puppets, blind mice, twins, Dr S, Hudson, Trina, MEC, and others. You know, the usual . . .

Posted: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Article comment by: just me

wow oh wow !!! Here we have a individual that lost his (deleted) m very happy for past Ceo and that so called corrupted Carny led board..I hope fixed wing got him to a trauma center that can treat for a busted ego.. I hope he doesn't have to go on Zoloft...


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