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THIAN LOK TIO et al v. WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER et al

November 30, 2010

THIAN LOK TIO ET AL., PETITIONERS,
v.
WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER ET AL., RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Re Document No.: 1

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DENYING THE PETITION TO VACATE ARBITRATION AWARD

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter arises from an employment dispute between the petitioners, a physician and his spouse, and the physician's former employer, respondent Washington Hospital Center ("the Hospital"). On November 5, 2004, in a prior action before this court, the court dismissed the petitioners' claims against the Hospital and its fellow respondents on the grounds that those claims were subject to a mandatory arbitration provision in the subject employment contract. The petitioners subsequently submitted their claims to arbitration and a final arbitration award was entered in favor of the respondents. Dissatisfied with the result of the arbitration proceedings, the petitioners initiated this action seeking vacatur of the arbitration award. Because the petitioners have not demonstrated that vacatur is appropriate, the court denies their petition to vacate the arbitration award.

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Petitioner Thian Lok Tio, M.D. ("Dr. Tio") is a former employee of the Hospital,*fn1 where he held the position of Director of Endoscopy in the Section of Gastroenterology. Tio v. Wash. Hosp. Ctr., 2004 WL 2663149, at *1 (D.D.C. Nov. 5, 2004).*fn2 Prior to commencing his employment at the Hospital, Dr. Tio and the Hospital entered into a written employment agreement (the "Agreement"). See id.; Respts' Opp'n to Petrs' Mot. to Vacate ("Respts' Opp'n") at 2. The Agreement contained an arbitration clause, which provided, in relevant part, that "any controversy, dispute or disagreement arising out of or relating to this Agreement, or the breach thereof, shall be settled by binding arbitration." Compl., Ex. 1 ¶ 12, Tio v. Wash. Hosp. Ctr., No. 04-701 (D.D.C. Apr. 28, 2004). The Agreement provided for the costs of arbitration to be divided equally between the parties. See id.

On April 18, 2003, the Hospital terminated Dr. Tio's employment. Tio, 2004 WL 2663149, at *1. Dr. Tio and his wife, petitioner Ting Song S. Tio ("Mrs. Tio"), subsequently filed suit against the respondents in the D.C. Superior Court, alleging: (1) tortious breach of contract; (2) tortious interference with an employment contract; (3) denial of common-law good faith and fair dealing; (4) tortious interference with third-party physician-patient contracts; (5) defamation/slander; (6) intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED"); (7) fraud/misrepresentation; (8) antitrust violations; (9) wrongful termination; and (10) loss of consortium.*fn3 Id. After removing the action to this court, the defendants moved to dismiss the complaint and compel submission of the claims to arbitration. Id.

On November 5, 2004, the court granted the defendants' motion. Id. at *7. In reaching its decision, the court held that the Agreement, including the arbitration provision, was valid and enforceable. Id. at *6. The court also concluded that the arbitration provision encompassed all of the claims asserted by Dr. Tio and that Mrs. Tio's claims were entirely derivative of and dependent on Dr. Tio's claims and therefore subject to mandatory arbitration as well. Id. at *7.

The petitioners subsequently initiated an arbitration proceeding before Judicial Arbitration & Mediation Services, Inc. ("JAMS"), asserting all of the claims raised in their complaint. Pet. ¶ 13; Respts' Opp'n at 3. During a preliminary hearing, and without objection, the arbitrator narrowed the parties to those within the scope of the Agreement between Dr. Tio and the Hospital. Respts' Opp'n, Ex. E ("Final Award") at 2. On January 25, 2007, after briefing and oral argument, the arbitrator granted in part the Hospital's motion for summary judgment and dismissed all of the claims except Dr. Tio's claims for breach of contract and wrongful termination on the basis of discrimination. Id.

Beginning in late August 2007, the arbitrator conducted a hearing that spanned eight days. Id. at 3. At the hearing, the parties presented "diametrically opposed" versions of the events at issue. Id. at 3 n.1. After considering the cumulative weight of all admissible evidence, including testimony adduced during the hearings, id., the arbitrator summarized his factual findings, in relevant part, as follows:

At some time in 2001, [Dr. Tio] initiated an employment application process at the Cedars-Sinai Hospital in California . . . [and continued] to pursue outside employment opportunities throughout 2002. In addition to seeking alternative employment, [Dr. Tio] curtailed his work at [the Hospital]. He began to travel extensively, attending conferences, speaking at engagements, and taking international trips and vacations. [Dr. Tio's] productivity, measured in terms of patient revenues and responsiveness to operational needs, plummeted. On or about April 23, 2003, [the Hospital] . . . terminated [Dr. Tio's] employment for cause, citing primarily [Dr. Tio's] lack of leadership, decreased attention to his duties, and decline in productivity.

Id. at 4.

According to the arbitrator, Dr. Tio established at the hearing that he is a member of a protected class and that he suffered an adverse employment action when he was terminated from the hospital. Id. Nonetheless, the arbitrator held that to prevail on his claim of discrimination, which formed the basis of Dr. Tio's breach of contract and wrongful termination claims,*fn4 Dr. Tio also needed to establish that he was treated disparately from other employees on the basis of his race and national origin. Id. at 5. Although Dr. Tio identified various instances in which he believed he had been treated disparately from other physicians at the Hospital, the arbitrator ultimately concluded that there was insufficient evidence to establish disparate treatment. See id. at 5-6. Because the Hospital proffered evidence that Dr. Tio's employment had been terminated for cause and because Dr. Tio failed to establish that he suffered discrimination in the course of his employment with and termination from the Hospital, the arbitrator entered a final arbitration award in favor of the Hospital with respect to all claims and allegations. Id. at 5-7.

Following the arbitrator's ruling, the petitioners filed this petition to vacate the arbitration award. See generally Pet. The petitioners contend that the arbitration award should be vacated because their claims were not subject to the Agreement's mandatory arbitration clause, the arbitrator displayed bias and acted in manifest disregard of the law and the fee-splitting provision of the Agreement's arbitration clause violates public policy. See generally id.; Petrs' Mem. in Support of Pet. ("Petrs' Mem."). The respondents maintain that the petitioners have presented no valid justification for vacating the final ...


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