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Panghat v. Baltimore Veterans Affairs Health Center

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 2, 2019

LIJO PANGHAT, M.D., Plaintiff,


          Ellen L. Hollander United States District Judge

         On January 23, 2019, plaintiff Lijo Panghat, M.D., who is self-represented, filed suit in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City against his former employers, Baltimore Veterans Affairs Health Center (“VA”) and University of Maryland, Baltimore (“UM”). ECF 5 (“Complaint”). Defendants removed the case to federal court on April 2, 2019, under 28 U.S.C. § 1441. ECF 1 (“Notice of Removal”).

         In essence, plaintiff avers that defendants unlawfully fired him in retaliation for raising a sexual harassment complaint and that his termination violated procedural due process. ECF 5. The 44-page Complaint is difficult to decipher, but it appears that plaintiff lodges claims of employment retaliation (id. ¶¶ 89-104); breach of contract (id. ¶¶ 105-07); denial of due process (id. ¶¶ 19, 20, 22, 34, 37, 63, 96-103, 112); intentional infliction of emotional distress (id. ¶¶ 129-33); and misrepresentation (id. ¶¶ 134-42). Plaintiff appended thirteen exhibits to the Complaint. ECF 5-2 to ECF 5-14.

         UM filed a motion to dismiss on May 24, 2019, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). ECF 16. The motion is supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 16-1) and numerous exhibits. ECF 16-2 to ECF 16-20. The same day, VA filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment (ECF 17), along with a memorandum of law. ECF 17-1. Plaintiff opposes both motions. ECF 25; ECF 26. UM has replied (ECF 27), and, per this Court's September 30, 2019 Order (ECF 32), the VA's reply is due by October 30, 2019.

         On September 27, 2019, plaintiff filed a “Motion to Seek Judicial Protection &/Or Temporary Restraining Order.” ECF 31 (“TRO Motion”). The TRO Motion is supported by an affidavit. ECF 31-1.

         This Memorandum resolves only the TRO Motion. No. hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's TRO Motion shall be denied.

         I. Background

         Dr. Panghat is an Indian national working in the United States on a J-1 Visa. ECF 5, ¶ 1. In September 2015, UM hired Dr. Panghat as a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. ECF 5, ¶ 8; ECF 5-3. As part of his job at UM, plaintiff also worked part-time at VA. ECF 5, ¶ 12.

         Plaintiff alleges that, while working at the VA, he was sexually harassed by a senior surgeon. ECF 5, ¶ 15. According to plaintiff, he reported “this ill-treatment and needless abuse to his supervisors[, ] Dr. Braganza and Dr. Lal.” Id. However, plaintiff alleges that instead of intervening, his supervisors “made the situation worse by subjecting him to further harassment, needlessly.” Id.

         On or about January 19, 2016, plaintiff met with two senior physicians, Dr. Lal and Dr. Sarkar. Id. ¶ 17. Dr. Sarkar told plaintiff that a VA employee had accused him of stalking and sexual harassment. Id. Dr. Sarkar then fired plaintiff. Id. ¶ 18. When plaintiff “tried to speak up in his defense, Dr. Lal refused to give him an opportunity . . . to explain himself and try to prove his innocence.” Id. Plaintiff maintains that he was terminated “without any notice, either oral or written.” Id. ¶ 19.

         Plaintiff raised the issue of his termination with UM's Title IX coordinator. Id. ¶ 5. But, according to plaintiff, UM retaliated against him by “blocking his transfer” to Johns Hopkins University, where he alleges he had obtained employment as a post-doctoral fellow. Id. Further, plaintiff alleges that UM's meddling has jeopardized his visa status. Id. Plaintiff represents that he has been unable to find work since leaving UM. Id. ¶ 6.

         As noted, plaintiff filed this lawsuit in State court, on January 23, 2019, and the case was removed on April 2, 2019. ECF 1. Plaintiff filed the TRO Motion on September 27, 2019. ECF 31.

         In the TRO Motion, plaintiff maintains that he “recently came across” what he calls “new evidence . . . that an employee of [UM] is explicitly threatening to inflict physical harm against” him. Id. at 1. Plaintiff's “new evidence” is a factual averment contained in a complaint filed in a different case pending in this district. Id. (citing Goldstein v. Univ. of Md. Sch. of Medicine, CCB-18-cv-2376, ECF 1 (“Goldstein Complaint”)). In that case, the plaintiff has brought claims of sexual harassment, retaliation, and constructive discharge against UM and several other defendants, alleging that, while serving as a research coordinator at VA, she was sexually harassed by various physicians, including Dr. Panghat. See Id. ¶¶ 131, 164-73. In his TRO Motion, plaintiff points to the following allegation in the Goldstein Complaint, ECF 31 at 1: “171. Toursavadkohi responded, ‘I will put him up against a wall and tell him: you leave her alone right now.'” Plaintiff contends that he is subject of this statement. Id. “[D]eeply disturbed” by the comment, plaintiff avers that this individual poses a “serious and genuine threat” to his safety. Id. at 2. Accordingly, he urges the Court to “immediately issue a restraining order against” Toursavadkohi. Id.

         II. ...

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