United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
DR. DAMIAN MEDICI, Plaintiff,
LIFESPAN CORPORATION, RHODE ISLAND HOSPITAL, and MICHAEL SUSIENKA, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. McCONNELL, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Lifespan Corporation, Rhode Island Hospital, and Michael
Susienka ("Defendants") move to dismiss Plaintiff
Dr. Damian Medici's Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. For the
foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss. ECF No. 92.
Medici is a research scientist specializing in stem cell
research. From 2012 through 2015, Dr. Medici was employed by
Rhode Island Hospital ("RIH") and appointed as an
Associate Professor at Brown University's medical school.
Dr. Medici's research focused on processes by which
standard cells transform to stem` cells-some of his research
focused on a particular process known as
endothelial-mesenchymal transition, or "EndMT." In
EndMT, endothelial cells-cells that line the surface of blood
cells-transform to mesenchymal cells, or stem cells.
Michael Susienka was hired by Dr. Medici to work in his lab
at RIH. While working for Dr. Medici, Mr. Susienka reviewed
articles published by Dr. Medici and noticed several images
in those articles that appeared to be duplicates of images in
other of Dr. Medici's articles. The duplicate images
purported to represent the results of different experiments.
Mr. Susienka reported the sets of images that he believed
were duplicates to Lifespan, the parent of RIH. Lifespan
investigated allegations of image duplication,  image
manipulation, and falsification of data and concluded that
Dr. Medici engaged in research misconduct with respect to
three of four allegations. Dr. Medici's employment by RIH was
terminated in light of the findings of research misconduct.
Regulations and Lifespan's Research Misconduct Policy
and RIH, institutions that receive funding from federal
Public Health Service agencies including the National
Institutes of Health and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood
Institute, must comply with federal regulations regarding
research misconduct. The regulations, which appear at 42
C.F.R. Part 93 (the "Regulations"), require that
institutions respond to each allegation of research
misconduct for which the institution is responsible and that
institutions adopt written policies regarding the process for
addressing allegations of research misconduct when the
research is supported by Public Health Service funds. 42
C.F.R. § 93.300.
Lifespan Policy on Research Misconduct (the "Misconduct
Policy") was adopted pursuant to the Regulations and
provides that it "will normally be followed when a
Lifespan official receives an Allegation," but that
"particular circumstances in an individual case may
dictate variation from the normal procedure where it is
determined to be in the best interests of research integrity,
or as needed for the operation of Lifespan and/or of any
relevant federal agency." The Regulations and Misconduct
Policy provide that when an allegation of research misconduct
is received, the Research Integrity Officer ("RIO")
must determine if the allegation identifies actions that
constitute research misconduct and is credible and specific
enough so that evidence of misconduct can be identified. If
the RIO determines that the allegation meets these
requirements, a two-stage process is followed before a
determination of research misconduct can be made.
first stage is an "inquiry," conducted by an
Inquiry Committee empaneled by the RIO. The purpose of the
inquiry is to determine whether the second stage of the
process-the investigation-is warranted. The Inquiry Committee
makes a preliminary evaluation of the evidence and testimony,
normally interviewing the complainant, respondent, and other
witnesses as provided in the Misconduct Policy. At the end of
the inquiry stage, the Inquiry Committee prepares a written
summary of the evidence, its conclusions, and a
recommendation on whether to proceed to the investigation
stage. The Inquiry Committee report and respondent's
comments are provided to the Deciding Official
("DO") to decide whether to adopt the Inquiry
Committee recommendation. If an investigation is warranted,
the Misconduct Policy and the Regulations require that the
institution notify the Office of Research Integrity
("ORI") of the decision to proceed to
Investigation Committee is selected by the RIO and takes
custody of and reviews the evidence collected by the Inquiry
Committee, as well as any additional relevant evidence. The
Investigation Committee issues a preliminary report
explaining its process, the evidence, and conclusions as to
each allegation. A finding of research misconduct requires
that the conduct at issue constitute "a significant
departure from accepted practices of the relevant research
community," that the "misconduct be committed
intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly," and that
"the allegation be proven by a preponderance of the
evidence." The respondent is provided with a copy of the
preliminary report and has thirty days to respond. The
Investigation Committee considers the respondent's
comments, makes any modifications to its report, and issues a
final report of the investigation. Under Lifespan's
Misconduct Policy, the respondent is given an opportunity to
respond to the final report.
Investigation Committee's final report and
respondent's comments are forwarded to the DO, who
decides whether to adopt the Investigation Committee's
findings. The DO's determination, the Investigation
Committee's report, and the respondent's response are
sent to ORI.
review the institution's findings and process, make its
own finding of research misconduct, propose administrative
actions, or take no action at all.
Medici initially filed this action in the District of
Massachusetts and transferred it to this Court. Dr.
Medici's Second Amended Complaint alleges seven causes of
action: (i) breach of contract arising out of Lifespan's
alleged breach of the Misconduct Policy,' (ii) breach of
contract arising out of Lifespan's termination of Dr.
Medici; (iii) defamation; (iv) tortious interference with
advantageous relations; (v) intentional infliction of