United States District Court, D. Hawaii
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND
DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS SECOND
Richard L. Puglisi, United States Magistrate Judge
the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Second Amended
Complaint, filed on November 14, 2017 (“Motion”).
ECF No. 38. Plaintiff's Opposition was filed on December
6, 2017; Defendant filed its Reply on December 19, 2017. ECF
Nos. 41, 42, 43. Pursuant to Local Rule 7.2(d), the Court
found the Motion suitable for disposition without a hearing.
ECF No. 44. After carefully reviewing the parties'
submissions and the relevant legal authority, the Court
GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART the Motion.
the Court granted Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint.
See ECF Nos. 35, 36. In his Second Amended
Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he matriculated as a
medical student at the John A. Burns School of Medicine,
University of Hawaii at Manoa, in July 2005. ECF No. 36
¶ 9. Shortly after July 2005, Plaintiff began to
experience episodes of anxiety, depression, and inabilities
to sleep or focus. Id. ¶ 10. Beginning in 2007,
Plaintiff was under psychiatric care. Id. ¶ 17.
was placed on academic probation on January 24, 2009, with
the requirement that Plaintiff take a medical licencing exam
by the end of May 2009. Id. ¶ 23. On July 1,
2009, Plaintiff requested a hearing before the Student
Standing and Promotion Committee to request an extension of
time to take the medical licencing exam to accommodate the
episodes of anxiety that he was experiencing. Id.
¶ 24. The Student Standing and Promotion Committee
directed Plaintiff to take the exam by the end of July 2009.
Id. ¶ 25. Plaintiff took the medical licencing
exam on July 27, 2009, and did not pass. Id.
¶¶ 26, 27. Plaintiff's failure on the exam
caused a major depressive episode as diagnosed by his
treating psychiatrist pursuant to the Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text
Revision (DSM-IV TR) criteria for Major Depressive Episode.
Id. ¶ 28.
October 2009, Dr. Mary Ann Antonelli, Director of the Office
of Student Affairs at the medical school, asked Plaintiff to
appear before the Student Standing and Promotion Committee to
evaluate his academic progress. Id. ¶ 41. In
response, Plaintiff emailed Dr. Antonelli about his
depression and disability. Id. ¶ 42. Dr.
Antonelli did not refer Plaintiff to the office for students
with disabilities, but accommodated Plaintiff by twice
postponing Plaintiff's appearance before the committee.
Id. ¶¶ 44-45.
appeared before the Student Standing and Promotion Committee
on February 10, 2010. Id. ¶ 47. The committee
allowed Plaintiff to re-take the medical licencing exam by
April 28, 2010, to accommodate his disability. Id.
¶ 48. Plaintiff then experienced another episode of
depression. Id. ¶ 31. In April 2010,
Plaintiff's treating psychiatrist advised Plaintiff to
take a medical leave of absence from school and not to take
the medical licencing exam by the April 28, 2010 deadline.
Id. ¶ 49. Plaintiff's treating psychiatrist
wrote a letter to the medical school on June 7, 2010, stating
that she recommended a 4-6 month leave of absence to
accommodate Plaintiff's depression. Id. ¶
50. Dr. Antonelli approved Plaintiff's medical leave of
absence on June 23, 2010. Id. ¶ 51. In the
following months, Plaintiff's episode of depression
continued without relief. Id. ¶ 34.
August 2010, Plaintiff was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and
began treatment. Id. ¶ 35. In the following
months, Plaintiff's episode of depression started to
resolve. Id. ¶ 36. By November 2010,
Plaintiff's ability to study was not substantially
limited anymore, and subsequently he resumed his review for
the exam. Id.
December 1, 2010, the new Director of the Office of Student
Affairs at the medical school, Dr. Richard Smerz, ordered
Plaintiff to attend a meeting before the Student Standing and
Promotion Committee to evaluate his academic progress on
January 12, 2011. Id. ¶ 55. Plaintiff met with
Dr. Smerz on January 5, 2011, and informed him of his medical
disabilities, including depression and recently diagnosed
hypothyroidism. Id. ¶ 56. Plaintiff's
episodic depression and hypothyroidism had begun to respond
to treatment by January 2011. Id. ¶¶ 39,
57. Plaintiff asked Dr. Smerz to continue Plaintiff's
medical leave to allow time for his treatment to become fully
effective, which Dr. Smerz refused. Id. ¶¶
57, 58. Dr. Smerz encouraged Plaintiff to withdraw from
medical school or face almost certain expulsion. Id.
¶ 58. Dr. Smerz also told Plaintiff that he needed to
learn to cope with his problems. Id. ¶ 59. Dr.
Smerz did not recommend or contact the office for students
with disabilities. Id. ¶ 61. Plaintiff's
treating psychiatrist also contacted Dr. Smerz to ask that
Plaintiff be given continuing accommodation to allow time for
his treatment to become fully effective, which Dr. Smerz
refused. Id. ¶¶ 62-63.
Student Standing and Promotion Committee met on January 12,
2011, to review Plaintiff's case and voted unanimously to
dismiss Plaintiff from the medical school for academic
malperformance. Id. ¶¶ 64-68.
appealed the committee's decision on January 24, 2011.
Id. ¶ 79. Plaintiff's treating psychiatrist
submitted a letter regarding Plaintiff's depression and
hypothroidism stating that these conditions “affected
his energy, motivation, concentration and cognitive
clarity.” Id. ¶ 81. Plaintiff's
appeal was dismissed on February 18, 2011, concluding that
there were no grounds for a formal hearing. Id.
March 1, 2011, Plaintiff appealed the decision to Dr. Jerris
Hedges, Office of the Dean of Medicine, asking permission to
re-take the licencing exam as an accommodation for his
depression and hypothyroidism. Id. ¶¶
87-93. Plaintiff met with Dr. Hedges regarding his appeal on
April 6, 2011. Id. ¶ 94. Plaintiff received a
letter from Dr. Hedges on April 7, 2011, upholding the
decision to dismiss Plaintiff from the medical school.
Id. ¶ 95.
December 2011, Plaintiff filed discrimination complaints
against Dr. Hedges and Dr. Smerz with the Office of the Vice
Chancellor for Students. Id. ¶ 122. A
fact-finding report prepared by an investigation team
regarding Plaintiff's complaints was submitted to the
Office of the Vice Chancellor for Students on May 21, 2012.
Id. ¶ 123. As part of that investigation, the
team interviewed the Director of the University of
Hawaii's Kokua Program, which is the office for students
with disabilities. Id. ¶¶ 124, 44. On June
20, 2012, Reed Dasenbrock, Vice Chancellor for Academic
Affairs, issued his decision finding no discrimination by Dr.
Hedges and Dr. Smerz. Id. ¶¶ 130-142.
21, 2012, Plaintiff appealed the decision finding no
discrimination by Dr. Hedges and Dr. Smerz to Vassilis
Syrmos, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate
Education, acting as the Chancellor's designee.
Id. ¶ 149. Plaintiff's appeal regarding the
decision finding no ...