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Garcia v. MaineGeneral Health

United States District Court, D. Maine

November 20, 2018

PETER GARCIA, Plaintiff,


          Nancy Torresen United States Chief District Judge

         Before the Court is the Defendant's motion to dismiss or stay the case and to compel arbitration. (ECF No. 9.) For the reasons stated below, the motion to compel arbitration is GRANTED and the case is DISMISSED.


         Plaintiff Peter Garcia brings this employment discrimination action against MaineGeneral Health (“MaineGeneral”). The Plaintiff alleges three counts: a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (“ADA”) (Count I); a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (“ADEA”) (Count II); and a claim of retaliation because of his ADA and ADEA claims (Count III). Compl. (ECF No. 1).

         The parties entered a Physician Employment Agreement (the “Agreement”) in June 2017, which called for the Plaintiff to be employed as a primary care physician and medical director. See Compl. ¶¶ 13, 19; Pl.'s Attach. A (ECF No. 1-1); Agreement (ECF No. 10-1). The Agreement provided that the Plaintiff's two year term of employment would begin after he became licensed to practice medicine in Maine. Agreement 1, 9. A resident of Florida, the Plaintiff did not have a Maine medical license when the Agreement was signed. See Compl. ¶¶ 4, 22.

         The Plaintiff had not practiced clinical medicine for a number of years due to bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, and so he was unable to produce letters from other physicians attesting to his clinical competency, as required to receive a medical license. Compl. ¶¶ 24-26; Pl.'s Attach. C at 3 (ECF No. 1-3). The Defendant agreed to provide a preceptor program through which MaineGeneral physicians would observe the Plaintiff in clinical practice and then provide the necessary letters to the Board of Medicine. Compl. ¶ 27. A dispute between the parties arose as to the nature and duration of the observation period that the Plaintiff would undergo. Compl. ¶¶ 28-33. The Plaintiff also complained that the Defendant was communicating with the Board of Medicine about a proposed program without including him on the messages. Compl. ¶ 38; Pl.'s Attach. C at 5. Following a series of conversations between the parties, the Defendant informed the Plaintiff on August 17, 2017, that it planned to unilaterally cancel the contract. Compl. ¶ 71.

         The Agreement contained a provision titled, “ARBITRATION AND WAIVER OF JURY TRIAL.” Agreement 11. It provides

The parties agree to make a good faith attempt to resolve informally any and all controversies, disputes, or claims between the parties, except as specifically set forth herein. Failing such informal resolution, all such controversies, disputes, or claims between the parties shall be resolved by arbitration proceedings conducted in accordance with the Arbitration Rules of the American Health Lawyers Association Alternative Dispute Resolution Service (“AHLA-ADRS”). By agreeing to arbitration, the parties specifically intend to irrevocably waive, to the extent permitted by law, any rights that may be afforded to either party under any and all statutory claims. The parties' obligations to arbitrate shall be subject to the following: . . .
6. This arbitration procedure shall be the exclusive means of settling any and all controversies, disputes, or claims between the parties, including statutory, common law, or otherwise; provided, however, that the requirements hereof shall not apply to (i) any claims or threatened claims involving professional medical malpractice, (ii) Medical Staff corrective actions, as applicable, (iii) any decision not to renew this Agreement, or (iv) claims involving the confidentiality of information, as contained herein.

Agreement 11-12.


         The Federal Arbitration Act (the “FAA”) “reflects ‘a federal liberal policy favoring arbitration agreements.' ” Cullinane v. Uber Techs., Inc., 893 F.3d 53, 60 (1st Cir. 2018) (quoting AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 563 U.S. 333, 346 (2011)). “However, arbitration is a matter of contract and a party cannot be required to submit to arbitration any dispute which he has not agreed so to submit.” Large v. Conseco Fin. Servicing Corp., 292 F.3d 49, 52 (1st Cir. 2002) (quotation marks omitted). The FAA provides that “[a] party aggrieved by the alleged failure, neglect, or refusal of another to arbitrate under a written agreement for arbitration may petition any United States district court . . . for an order directing that such arbitration proceed in the manner provided for in such agreement.” 9 U.S.C. § 4. The FAA further establishes that

A written provision in . . . a contract evidencing a transaction involving commerce to settle by arbitration a controversy thereafter arising out of such contract . . . shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.

9 U.S.C. § 2.

         Federal courts will grant a motion to compel arbitration pursuant to the FAA when “(i) there exists a written agreement to arbitrate, (ii) the dispute falls within the scope of that arbitration agreement, and (iii) the party seeking an arbitral forum has not waived its right to arbitration.” Combined Energies v. CCI, Inc., 514 F.3d 168, 171 (1st Cir. 2008) (quoting Bangor Hydro-Elec. Co. v. New England Tel. & Tel. Co., 62 F.Supp.2d 152, 155 (D. Me. 1999)).


         The Defendant argues that the factors required to compel arbitration are present and the Court should dismiss, rather than stay, the case, because all of the Plaintiff's claims are arbitrable and dismissal makes any appeal more efficient. Def.'s Mot. 3-5. The Plaintiff maintains that the motion should be denied. Considering the Plaintiff's Response along with his Surreply, [1] I interpret his arguments as being three fold: (1) that, because he never received his Maine license to practice medicine, no valid instrument requiring arbitration ever came into existence; (2) that if such an agreement was formed, it is unenforceable because it is unconscionable; and (3) that the Defendant has waived its right to arbitrate by failing to act in good faith. Pl.'s Resp. (ECF No. 12). I address each of the Plaintiff's arguments in turn.

         I. Whether There Is an Enforceable Written ...

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