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Murphy v. Goss

United States District Court, D. Oregon

January 26, 2015

NITA GOSS, in her individual capacity as Health Professionals Program Coordinator, Oregon Medical Board; JOHN/JANE DOE, in his or her individual capacity as an employee of the Oregon Medical Board; W. KENT WILLIAMSON, in his individual capacity as Board Chair of the Oregon Medical Board; and KATHLEEN HALEY, as the Executive Director of the Oregon Medical Board, Defendants.

Marianne Dugan, Eugene, OR. Of Attorney for Plaintiff.

Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General and Todd Marshall, Senior Assistant Attorney General, OREGON DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Salem, OR. Of Attorneys for Defendants.


MICHAEL H. SIMON, District Judge.

Plaintiff, James Michael Murphy ("Plaintiff"), brings this action against three members of the Oregon Medical Board ("OMB"): Nita Goss, Kent Williamson, and Kathleen Haley, as well as John/Jane Doe, an unidentified employee of the OMB (Collectively "Defendants"). Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. 14) Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (Dkt. 7) for failure to state a claim. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion is granted.


A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim may be granted only when there is no cognizable legal theory to support the claim or when the complaint lacks sufficient factual allegations to state a facially plausible claim for relief. Shroyer v. New Cingular Wireless Servs., Inc., 622 F.3d 1035, 1041 (9th Cir. 2010). In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint's factual allegations, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded material facts alleged in the complaint and construe them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Wilson v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 668 F.3d 1136, 1140 (9th Cir. 2012); Daniels-Hall v. Nat'l Educ. Ass'n, 629 F.3d 992, 998 (9th Cir. 2010). To be entitled to a presumption of truth, allegations in a complaint "may not simply recite the elements of a cause of action, but must contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively." Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). All reasonable inferences from the factual allegations must be drawn in favor of the plaintiff. Newcal Indus. v. Ikon Office Solution, 513 F.3d 1038, 1043 n.2 (9th Cir. 2008). The court need not, however, credit the plaintiff's legal conclusions that are couched as factual allegations. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009).

A complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations to "plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief, such that it is not unfair to require the opposing party to be subjected to the expense of discovery and continued litigation." Starr, 652 F.3d at 1216. "A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)).


OMB issued a Final Order on July 17, 2012 (the "Final Order") finding that Plaintiff violated Or. Rev. Stat. ("ORS") § 677.190(1)(a) by engaging in unprofessional or dishonorable conduct as defined by ORS § 677.188(4)(a). ORS § 677.188(4)(a) defines unprofessional or dishonorable conduct to include any conduct or practice that does or might constitute a danger to the health or safety of a patient or the public. The Final Order states in relevant part:

The evidence was established, by both a preponderance of evidence and by clear and convincing evidence, that Dr. Murphy consumed alcohol while on call in violation of Tuality's policy, and that this conduct violated recognized standards of ethics. The Board also finds that consuming alcohol while on cardiac call places the physician at risk of impaired function, and as such, constitutes conduct "which does or might adversely affect a physician's... ability to safely and skillfully to practice medicine..." ORS 677.190(4)(a). The Board concludes that Dr. Murphy engaged in unprofessional or dishonorable conduct and has grounds to sanction Dr. Murphy.
Dr. Murphy is reprimanded for violating hospital policy, which has a direct bearing on patient safety, and his ethical duty to abstain from consuming alcohol while on cardiac call at Tuality Hospital. In doing so, Dr. Murphy subordinated the best interest of his patients to his own personal desires.

Plaintiff does not challenge the validity of the Final Order.

After issuing the Final Order, OMB reported the Final Order to the National Practitioner Data Bank ("NPDB") as required by the Health Care Quality Improvement Act of 1986[1] ("HCQIA"), a federal statute. Congress enacted the HCQIA to prevent malpractice, to improve the quality of health care, and to ensure that incompetent physicians could not move from state to state without disclosing or others from discovering a physician's previous damaging or incompetent performance. The HCQIA seeks to promote these goals through professional peer review, which it accomplishes, in part, by limiting the civil liability of the physicians, administrators, and healthcare entities involved in professional review actions. The HCQIA established the NPDB to collect and release certain information about the professional competence and conduct of physicians, dentists, and other healthcare practitioners. The HCQIA and related regulations determine which professional review actions and other events must be reported and which entities must report to the NPDB under which circumstances. The HCQIA also imposes penalties for failing to report required information to the NPDB.

As part of the process of reporting the Final Order to the NPDB, the following question was posed to OMB: "Is the Adverse Action Specified in This Report Based on the Subject's Professional Competence or Conduct, Which Adversely Affected, or Could Have Adversely Affected, the Health or Welfare of the Patient?" Defendants ...

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