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Cindy Hurst v. Ihc Health Services

September 15, 2011

CINDY HURST, PLAINTIFF,
v.
IHC HEALTH SERVICES, INC., A UTAH GENERAL NON-PROFIT CORPORATION D/B/A CASSIA REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER;
INTERMOUNTAIN HEALTHCARE, INC., A UTAH GENERAL NON-PROFIT CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: B. Lynn Winmill Chief Judge United States District Court

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 15) by Defendants IHC Health Services, Inc. and Intermountain Healthcare, Inc. (collectively, the Hospital). The Court heard oral argument on September 13, 2011. Having considered the parties' arguments, and being familiar with the record, the Court will deny the motion in part, and grant the motion in part, as more fully expressed below.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Cindy Hurst was first employed with the Hospital in August 1988 as the Emergency Room Unit Secretary. Perrigot Aff. (Ex. B) at ¶ 3, Dkt. 16-2. Since that time, Hurst's assignments have changed a number of times. In March 2008, when Hurst's primary assignment was in the Hospital recovery room, she began part-time work for the Harris Laser Care Clinic. Hurst Dep. (Ex. A) at 27:11-19, Dkt. 16-1. The Clinic was established, owned and operated by surgeon Eric Harris, MD. Dr. Harris staffed the Clinic with Hospital employees such as Hurst, through an agreement with the Hospital. Perrigot Aff. at ¶¶ 5-6. Hurst resigned her primary assignment in the recovery room in January 2009, and received a new primary assignment working "full-time" in the Clinic. Hurst Dep., at 27:23-25. Hurst still maintained on-call shifts in the recovery room, roughly three times per month. Id. at 44:23 - 46:1.

All employees of the Hospital, including Hurst, are employed at-will, as provided in the Hospital's employee handbook. Hurst Dep. at 161:9-22; Perrigot Aff. at ¶ 17, Attachment 12 at 2, Dkt. 16-3 at 26.

In early January of 201, Hurst and Dr. Harris became involved in a disagreement about the propriety of having the Clinic's office manager perform patient IV-line maintenance. On January 8, 2010, Dr. Harris told the Hospital's Human Resources Director, Keri Perrigot, he no longer wanted Hurst working for him in the Clinic. Harris Aff. (Ex. C) at ¶¶ 7-8, Dkt. 16-4. On January 12, 2010, the day before a scheduled meeting with Perrigot, Hurst delivered a letter to Dr. Harris and to the Hospital's human resources office, resigning her position with the Clinic. Hurst Dep. at 136:11 -- 138:25. Hurst contends that she was afraid she would be terminated because of the dispute over allowing employees to perform medical procedures which were outside their permissible scope of practice. See Pl. St. of Facts, Dkt. 23 at ¶¶ 7-17.

Effective January 13, 2010, the Hospital ended Hurst's work assignment at the Clinic. Since Hurst was not given another assignment to replace her work at the Clinic, this left her with only a part-time assignment consisting of three on-call shifts per month in the recovery room. Although she has requested additional shifts, Hurst has not been offered any extra shifts since January 13, 2010. Hurst Dec. ¶ 11, Dkt. 24. If called in to work, Hurst is paid $30.48 per hour; if she is not called into work during the on-call shift, she is paid $3.81 per hour. Id. ¶ 10. Hurst has maintained this minimal assignment so as to maintain her licensure as a nurse. Even if Hurst were to work all three shifts for which she is on-call, her hours -- and thus her income -- would be roughly one tenth of what she maintained prior to January 13, 2010, when she was employed at the Clinic full-time.

At Hurst's request, the Hospital removed references from her employee file which suggested that she had been "terminated" from her position with the Clinic; the Hospital informed Hurst it would consider her assignment change from the Clinic as a resignation. Hurst Dep. at 152:17 -- 153:19; Perrigot Aff. ¶ 15.

LEGAL STANDARD

One of the principal purposes of the summary judgment "is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims . . . ." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). It is "not a disfavored procedural shortcut," but is instead the "principal tool[ ] by which factually insufficient claims or defenses [can] be isolated and prevented from going to trial with the attendant unwarranted consumption of public and private resources." Id. at 327. "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and the Court must not make credibility findings. Id. at 255. Direct testimony of the non-movant must be believed, however implausible. Leslie v. Grupo ICA, 198 F.3d 1152, 1159 (9th Cir. 1999). On the other hand, the Court is not required to adopt unreasonable inferences from circumstantial evidence. McLaughlin v. Liu, 849 F.2d 1205, 1208 (9th Cir. 1988).

The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir. 2001) (en banc). To carry this burden, the moving party need not introduce any affirmative evidence (such as affidavits or deposition excerpts) but may simply point out the absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212 F.3d 528, 532 (9th Cir. 2000).

This shifts the burden to the non-moving party to produce evidence sufficient to support a jury verdict in her favor. Id. at 256-57. The non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and show "by her affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file" that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.

However, the Court is "not required to comb through the record to find some reason to deny a motion for summary judgment." Carmen v. San Francisco Unified Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1029 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting Forsberg v. Pac. Northwest Bell Tel. Co., 840 F.2d 1409, 1418 (9th Cir. 1988)). Instead, the "party opposing summary judgment must direct [the Court's] attention to specific ...


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