Heard in the Court of Appeals May 8, 2014
This Decision is not final until expiration of the twenty-one day rehearing period. [North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure 32(b)]
Medicolegal Consultants, LLC, by C. William Hinnant Jr., and McKinney Law Firm, PLLC, by Elizabeth McKinney, for Plaintiff.
Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, LLP, by John E. Pueschel and Theresa M. Sprain, for Defendant.
ERVIN, Judge. Judge GEER concurs in separate opinion. Judge ROBERT N. HUNTER, JR. concurs in result only in separate opinion.
Appeal by plaintiff from judgment entered 4 September 2013 by Judge Marvin K. Blount, III, in
Wilson County. No. 11 CVS 610 Superior Court.
Plaintiff Rose L. Glynne, M.D., appeals from an order dismissing her complaint. On appeal, Plaintiff contends that the trial court erred by granting Defendant Wilson Medical Center's dismissal motion on the grounds that the time within which she was entitled to file her complaint had been extended by 28 U.S.C. § 1367(d) and that, even if her complaint had not been filed in a timely manner, she was still entitled to equitable relief on the grounds of excusable neglect, equitable tolling, or equitable estoppel. After careful consideration of Plaintiff's challenges to the trial court's order in light of the record and the applicable law, we conclude that the trial court's order should be affirmed.
I. Factual Background
A. Substantive Facts
Plaintiff practiced medicine in Wilson, having opened her own practice in that community in 2002 after having been employed by another Wilson-based practice group before that time. As a result of the initial success that she experienced after having formed her own practice, Plaintiff employed an associate and purchased an office building. In October 2002, Plaintiff entered into an agreement to lease space in her office building to Defendant, which occupied and used the space from December 2005 until July 2006, when it vacated the premises. Plaintiff claimed that Defendant violated the lease agreement between the parties by failing to pay rent.
In April 2006, Defendant initiated an external quality review concerning Plaintiff based upon allegations that complications had been detected in surgical procedures that she performed in 2004 and 2005. However, the inquiry did not result in any adverse findings in reference to Plaintiff.
On 15 November 2006, Plaintiff attended a meeting of Defendant's medical executive committee at Defendant's request. At that meeting, Plaintiff was informed that problems involving the care that she provided to patients had been reported by several individuals. However, the nature of the problems that had been reported by these individuals was not explained to Plaintiff with any degree of precision. In addition, Defendant expressed concern that there was a high probability that surgical procedures performed by Plaintiff would result in complications. For that reason, Defendant believed that Plaintiff should repeat her residency or obtain a mentor. Although Plaintiff was unable to attend another committee meeting scheduled for the following day due to a medical emergency involving her daughter, she did notify a member of the committee of that fact. The person to whom Plaintiff communicated this information failed to inform the review committee of the necessity for Plaintiff's absence.
On 20 November 2006, Plaintiff's counsel notified Plaintiff that her privileges to admit and treat patients at Defendant's facility would be suspended 21 November 2006. On the following day, Plaintiff learned that Defendant insisted that she satisfy a number of requirements in order to obtain the restoration of her privileges, including taking a leave of absence, obtaining the agreement of a qualified physician to serve as mentor, and having all of her proposed surgical cases reviewed by a board for a period of one year. Plaintiff took leave from practicing medicine from 21 November 2006 until 19 February 2007. During this interval, Plaintiff had to pay $50,000 in additional compensation to her associate in order to ensure that needed call coverage was provided. Although Plaintiff attempted to obtain the assistance of a mentor, Defendant declined to approve the proposed mentoring relationship on the grounds that the proposed mentor no longer practiced obstetrics. After rejecting Plaintiff's proposal, however, Defendant recommended that Plaintiff reach agreement with a different mentor, who had also ceased practicing obstetrics.
On 27 December 2006, Plaintiff received a letter from Defendant identifying the allegedly problematic procedures that had been discussed at the 15 November meeting. On 6 January 2007, Dr. Michael Halpert, Defendant's Chief of Surgery, was appointed to investigate the validity of the allegations that had been made against Plaintiff. On 8 February 2007, Dr. Halpert concluded that there was no evidence of an increased infection rate, other patient-related ...