- Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
- Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
- Date Filed: 05-23-2023
- Case #: 21-16873
- Judge(s)/Court Below: Katzmann, J. for the Court; Friedland, J.; Nelson, J.
- Full Text Opinion
A doctor appealed the district court's dismissal of his action against California Department of Public Health employees. The state employees investigated and published an anonymized report which found that during a surgery the doctor left a patient in an unstable condition, leading to the patient's death. The doctor sought a judgment requiring the state agency to retract and vindicate the surgeon and pay money damages. On appeal the doctor argues that the published report deprived him of his livelihood without due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Section 1983 requires that the doctor prove that the state employees acting under state law, caused harm and deprived the doctor of his constitutional rights. Moreover “although the Supreme Court has stated that damage to reputation–without more–is insufficient to implicate the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, a “stigma-plus” due process claim may lie where reputational harm is accompanied by some additional deprivation of liberty or property.” Chaudhry v. Aragon, 68 F.4th 1161, 1170 (9th Cir. 2023). A “stigma-plus” claim requires “the public disclosure of a “stigmatizing statement by the government, the accuracy of which is contested, plus the denial of some more tangible interest such as employment. 68 F.4th at 1171. The doctor must prove that the state employees' action of publishing the report was the actual and proximate cause of the alleged deprivation. The Court found that the doctor failed to demonstrate but for the report’s publication by the state agency, the doctor would not have been harmed by the loss of patients, reputation, and his position in the hospital. The Court reasoned that other factors including an internal hospital investigation and numerous medical malpractice suits against the doctor could have independently caused the alleged harm. The Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal due to insufficient causation. Affirmed.