United States District Court, District of Columbia
OPINION AND ORDER
CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER JUDGE
Palacios brought suit against MedStar Health and MedStar
Georgetown Medical Center, Inc. alleging discrimination based
on her gender identity after the hospital's Department of
Plastic Surgery purportedly refused to provide her
gender-affirming breast augmentation surgery. After the
parties failed to reach an agreement in mediation, Palacios
filed a motion seeking to amend her complaint to add
additional claims related to a consultation she had with a
MedStar Georgetown doctor regarding a different procedure,
vocal feminization surgery. MedStar has opposed her motion.
Based on the arguments presented by the parties in their
briefing and at the hearing, the Court will allow Palacios to
amend her federal Affordable Care Act claim but will deny
leave to amend her D.C. Human Rights Act claim.
to her complaint, on May 4, 2015, Ariana Palacios-a
twenty-seven year old transgender woman-telephoned the
Department of Plastic Surgery at MedStar Georgetown Medical
Center (“MedStar Georgetown”) seeking to make an
appointment for breast augmentation surgery. Compl.
¶¶ 19-20. Palacios alleges that during the phone
call, she was informed that the Department of Plastic Surgery
was no longer accepting “trans patients.”
Id. ¶ 21. A few days later, Palacios asserts
that she and a friend went to the Department of Plastic
Surgery in person and were again informed that the Department
was not accepting any “trans patients.”
Id. ¶ 22. Palacios claims she followed this
visit up with a phone call to the office of the Chairman of
the Department, during which she recounted her prior
unsuccessful attempts to obtain an appointment for surgery.
Id. ¶ 23. The assistant to whom she spoke
allegedly said the Department would return her call within a
week, but Palacios says she never received a response.
August 26, 2015, Palacios filed a charge of discrimination
with the D.C. Office of Human Rights related to her
interactions with MedStar Georgetown's Department of
Plastic Surgery. See Defs.' Opp'n Pl.'s
Mot. Leave File Am. Compl. (“Defs.' Opp'n) Ex.
A. In it, she alleged that the Department's refusal to
schedule her breast augmentation surgery constituted
discrimination based on gender identity in violation of
D.C.'s anti-discrimination laws. Id. She
similarly filed an administrative charge of discrimination
against MedStar with the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Service's (“HHS”) Office for Civil Rights,
asserting that the hospital's actions violated the
anti-discrimination provision in section 1557 of the Patient
Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Affordable Care
Act”) (codified at 42 U.S.C. § 18116). Pl.'s
Mot. Leave File Am. Compl. (“Pl.'s Mot.”) at
to Palacios's proposed amended complaint, after these
charges were filed she met with MedStar Georgetown physician
Shaum Sridharen, an otolaryngologist. Am. Compl. ¶ 32.
During this meeting, Palacios says she sought to obtain a
video recording of her vocal chords to provide to a surgeon
in Boston who was scheduled to perform voice feminization
surgery on her. Id. Palacios claims that when Dr.
Sridharen learned of the nature of her procedure, he refused
to provide her a copy of the video recording. Id.
¶ 34. Palacios subsequently amended her federal
administrative charge to encompass the incident with Dr.
Sridharen. Defs.' Opp'n Ex. B (letter of Nov. 12,
2015). There is no evidence that Palacios ever similarly
amended her D.C. administrative charge.
10, 2017, Palacios withdrew her pending D.C.
charge. She then filed suit in this Court against
MedStar Health, Inc. and MedStar Georgetown (collectively
“MedStar”). Her complaint alleges that her
interactions with the MedStar Georgetown Department of
Plastic Surgery constituted discrimination on the basis of
gender identity in violation of the D.C. Human Rights Act,
D.C. Code § 2-1402.21, and in violation of section 1557
of the Affordable Care Act, 42 U.S.C. § 18116(a). Compl.
¶¶ 30, 42. The complaint as originally filed did
not include any allegations concerning her interaction with
Dr. Sridharen. After MedStar filed its answer, the parties
agreed to undergo mediation, which proved unsuccessful. On
November 17, 2017, Palacios filed a motion to amend her
complaint, seeking to flesh out her allegations and add
claims related to the Sridharen interaction. MedStar opposed
her motion, and the Court held a hearing on January 30, 2018.
The Court will now grant Palacios's motion in part and
deny it in part.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2), a plaintiff may
file an amended complaint after an answer has been served
only with the opposing party's consent or with leave of
court. The Court “should freely give leave when justice
so requires.” Id. Leave may be denied in cases
involving “undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on
the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies
by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the
opposing party by virtue of the allowance of the amendment,
[and] futility of amendment.” Foman v. Davis,
371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). In particular, if an amendment
would not survive a motion to dismiss-such as where a claim
sought to be added is barred by the statute of
limitations-amendment is futile and should be denied.
See, e.g., James Madison Ltd. by Hecht v.
Ludwig, 82 F.3d 1085, 1099 (D.C. Cir. 1996). A defendant
has the burden of showing why leave to file an amended
complaint should be denied. See, e.g., Smith v.
Café Asia, 598 F.Supp.2d 45, 48 (D.D.C. 2009).
Palacios's counsel clarified at the hearing, Palacios
seeks to amend both her claim under the Affordable Care Act
(the “section 1557 claim”) and her claim under
the D.C. Human Rights Act (the “D.C. law claim”).
Medstar argues that leave to amend should be denied because
(1) the claims Palacios seeks to add are barred by the
applicable statutes of limitations, and (2) Palacios acted
with undue delay, bad faith, and dilatory motive in seeking
to amend her complaint. See Defs.' Opp'n at
Palacios's section 1557 claim
Statute of Limitations
first argues that the section 1557 claim that Palacios seeks
to add is barred by the statute of limitations. In fact,
counsel for Medstar suggested at the hearing that
all of Palacios's section 1557 claims are barred
by the statute of limitations. This is so, Medstar contends,
because the one-year statute of limitations governing D.C.
Human Rights Act claims applies to Palacios's section
1557 claims. See Defs.' Opp'n at 5. Palacios
contends that the three-year statute of limitations governing
D.C. personal injury claims applies instead. See
Pl.'s Reply at 2-3. Neither side is correct. The Court
finds that ...