Pennsylvania Record

Friday, April 10, 2020

Lawsuit alleges nursing board failed to reduce suspension in compliance with state Supreme Court ruling


By John Suayan | May 16, 2019

Medical malpractice 07

PITTSBURGH – A Pittsburgh woman alleges in a lawsuit that the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs, State Board of Nursing did not afford her due process in relation to the suspension of her license.

Shannon McGrath initiated litigation May 1 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, claiming that similarly situated nurses were granted probationary licenses while she was denied one.

McGrath, who worked at the HCR Manor Care Scott Township facility until September 2013, explained that the respondent suspended her license though she resolved charges of taking prescription medication from a patient during her employment by pleading nolo contendere and without a verdict being issued.

“On September 20, 2013, defendant issued a notice to plaintiff informing her that her nursing license was to be automatically suspended for a period of at least 10 years without any option to be reinstated earlier due to her guilty plea on May 29, 2013,” the suit said. “Upon receipt of this notice, plaintiff requested a hearing challenging her automatic license suspension and that her license either be reinstated or that she be permitted to practice nursing under a probationary license.”

According to court documents, the board conducted the hearing and upheld McGrath’s decade-long license suspension and refused to either reinstate or provide a probationary license to the complainant. McGrath argued that the body “routinely” granted other nurses probationary licenses.

“In fact, plaintiff is aware of another nurse that pled guilty to charges more severe than her own and yet was provided a probationary license and not required to serve the entire 10-year suspension,” the suit said. “Defendant denied her request on the basis of its new position predicated upon an unconstitutional interpretation of the statute governing suspensions and revocations of nursing licenses.”

The petitioner then took her case to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, which ruled in 2017 “the 10-year automatic suspension was penal in nature, which required defendant and the Commonwealth to interpret the law in a lenient fashion for plaintiff.”

“Ultimately, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that defendant’s interpretation was unconstitutional and ruled that plaintiff was not required to serve an entire 10-year suspension and could be eligible for reinstatement at an earlier date,” the suit said.

However, the suit added, the board refused to reconsider its denial of her request for either reinstatement or a probationary license.

A jury trial is requested.

David Kobylinski with the Praetorian Law Group of Pittsburgh is McGrath's lead counsel.

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania case number 2:19-CV-0505

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U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Division