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Posted on Tue, Sep 15, 2009 : 4:27 p.m.

Former nursing student sues the University of Michigan alleging wrongful dismissal

By Juliana Keeping

A former University of Michigan nursing student is suing the university over claims that her due process rights were violated when she was expelled and barred from campus in 2007.

In her federal lawsuit, Linda Martinson claims she was dismissed from the program after being accused of honor code violations, despite recommendations that she be allowed to stay or be suspended instead.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of similar legal action involving a former U-M School of Dentistry student who was awarded $2 million in a lawsuit that claimed she was illegally thrown out of school in 2005.

U-M spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said U-M attorneys are prepared to vigorously defend the individuals named in the Martinson suit, who include an associate dean and two directors from the school of nursing, as well as the U-M Board of Regents.

"The University of Michigan takes seriously the responsibility of preparing the very best professionals in the nursing program and in all of our academic programs," Fitzgerald said. "The university and each school and college have in place a robust process to review actions regarding a student’s status and that process affords the student an opportunity to be heard."

Due to student privacy concerns, he added, the university will not comment on the specifics of the case.

Martinson was student in an accelerated second career nursing program from August to November 2007.

According to the lawsuit, Martinson was accused in September 2007 of honor code violations in a 200-level nursing class. A meeting was held in October with a nursing school associate dean and a director to discuss the problems and deliver a letter to Martinson specifying the violations.

Carol Loveland-Cherry, associate dean for academic affairs, called police during the meeting to issue a no-trespass violation to Martinson, the suit says. Loveland-Cherry submitted a request the next day to E. Royster Harper, the vice president for student affairs, saying Martinson disrupted the environment and "caused faculty, students and staff to feel threatened and fear for their personal safety," according to the suit. It called for Martinson's immediate removal due to mental health reasons, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges Loveland-Cherry and two nursing school directors pursued the expulsion due to a strong personal dislike of Martinson, despite recommendations from the office of student conflict resolution, Harper and a school of nursing appellate panel that Martinson be allowed to stay in school with counseling or be suspended rather than expelled.

Named as defendants in the suit are the U-M Board of Regents, as well as Loveland-Cherry; Judith Lynch-Sauer, an assistant professor and director of the office of student affairs; and Bonnie Hagerty, an associate professor and director for undergraduate programs.

Calls to Martinson's lawyers were not immediately returned Tuesday.

In the earlier similar lawsuit, former dental student Alissa Zwick said her expulsion occurred because of a feud between two faculty members and an associate dean. A jury ruled last December that Zwick's due-process rights were violated and ordered the university to pay her $1.72 million, in addition to attorney fees totaling $320,990.

U-M spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said U-M attorneys filed an appeal in March, which is still pending.

Juliana Keeping covers higher education for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at julianakeeping@annarbor.com or 734-623-2528.

Comments

Isanopinion

Sat, Sep 26, 2009 : 10:53 a.m.

If the faculty felt that this student had a mental health problem and needed to be "weeded out" as previously suggested, then why would they not find her some treatment? If she had a physical medical condition which affect her performance in class they would surely find her "medical help", and then allow her to return another year. Someone previously mention that "cheating" was the honor code violation. If that is the case then there wouldn't be grounds for a lawsuit. I am still confused why the police were called? Was Ms Martinson being violent toward the faculty? Were threats being made to them? The article does not seem very clear on this.

LilBoPeace

Sun, Sep 20, 2009 : 9:07 p.m.

It seems logical to pursue expulsion if the faculty, students and staff were in fear for their personal safety. Did they have reason to believe that Ms. Martinson was capable of physical assault?

KnowsBetter

Sat, Sep 19, 2009 : 11:31 p.m.

Thanks Rebbapragada: I share your sentiments and those of liekkio regarding the all-important role of clinical instructors in the professional development of nursing students. Undoubtedly, nursing is a profession that should be held to the highest ethical and moral standards. That is why I am concerned that Ms. Paige Ledlow, aka Mambourg, may have purposely misrepresented her experience and interest in this conversation. She apparently concealed her affiliation with the U-M School of Nursing: Graduate Student Instructor, Nurs 256-Health Maintenance II, winter 2009; recipient of M.A., Spring 2009; and current graduate student. I am suspicious of P. Ledlows motivation, which makes me wonder whether she has a relationship with those named in the lawsuit.

positivenurse

Fri, Sep 18, 2009 : 2:28 p.m.

I have just graduated from UM School of Nursing and can speak to the credibility of the directors mentioned in this article. One was the chair of my dissertation committee. Though I struggled at times, I was always treated with professionalism and compassion. When I needed correction, it was done firmly but positively. The responsibility for my learning and my performance rests with me.

REBBAPRAGADA

Thu, Sep 17, 2009 : 10:44 a.m.

THANKS 'KNOWS BETTER' : This is an incident from year 2007 and the details are not yet fully disclosed. For now, I would like to reflect upon the attitude of a Clinical Instructor at the Nursing School.The students enter the School after obtaining proper academic credentials and the Instructors should take pride in imparting training in all the aspects of the profession including bedside manners.The students need to equipped with the moral and ethical standards that are expected in the practice of the profession.An attitude of indifference and evasiveness and blaming the Student would not help. I want to ask the Clinical Instructor as to what it takes to train a student who would be fit enough to serve your mother? If you cannot prepare your student fit enough to serve your mother, how are you fit enough to serve the Community?

KnowsBetter

Thu, Sep 17, 2009 : 12:03 a.m.

The suggestion that Ms. Martinson stole drugs from a hospital, and cheated on an exam are totally unsubstantiated by the news article. These comments should have been removed by the moderator. Ms. Martinson is represented by the Schwartz Law Firm, located in Farmington Hills.

sls

Wed, Sep 16, 2009 : 8:10 p.m.

Lets see, if there were 3 professors and 1 student were they really so threatened that they had to call the police. They already had her overpowered.

InsideTheHall

Wed, Sep 16, 2009 : 1:41 p.m.

The honor code violation was cheating on an exam. Explusion was in order and proper when an honor code is violated. The fallout expected is a couple early retirements at the Nursing School

treetowncartel

Wed, Sep 16, 2009 : 10:01 a.m.

Macabre, respondeat superior is what bring s the U of M in the picture. your employer can be sued for your actions as an employee too. the school would also have to comply with Americans with Disabilites Act, the Rehab Act and Michigan's Person'w with Disabilites Civil Rights Act if her behavior was attributable to a disability.

liekkio

Wed, Sep 16, 2009 : 8:20 a.m.

I believe that as a nurse and nursing instructor you and your colleagues at the nursing school also have moral and professional obligations to help supposedly sick people, not to use their condition (if there is any is this case) to level accusations against them. Yet it is quite obvious from the article that these obligations were willingly tossed aside in order to get rid of an inconvenient person.

PaigeLedlow

Wed, Sep 16, 2009 : 8:03 a.m.

As a nurse and a clinical instructor for a school of nursing I can attest that disciplinary actions against students have an added dimension that other "non-professional" programs do not share. It is my obligation as an instructor not only to ensure that the student meets academic expectations but also ethical and social expectations for health care providers. I often ask myself "would I want this student to care for my mother?" If I cant say yes, then for the sake of patients who are in vulnerable positions some actions need to be taken. Nursing is a profession that should be held to the highest ethical and moral standards, it is my duty and my honor to do the same to my nursing students.

sls

Wed, Sep 16, 2009 : 6:28 a.m.

Why is Linda Martinsons attorneys name not listed. There may be other people who would like to testify as to their experience with Judith Lynch Sauer and Bonnie Haggerty. I thought of filing a lawsuit against them myself a few years ago and would be thrilled to support someone else stopping them.

sls

Wed, Sep 16, 2009 : 4:50 a.m.

Who is Linda Martinson's attorney? I would be thrilled for the opportunity to discuss how Judith Lynch Saur and Bonnie Haggerty operate. They are deceitful, manipulative women and I had actually considered filing a suit against the two of them several years ago but unfortunately did not pursue it. I would be thrilled for the opportunity to help someone else stop them.

voiceofreason

Tue, Sep 15, 2009 : 5:40 p.m.

Besides having an obligation to teach students a certain profession, professional schools have an obligation to "weed out" all people with major character issues. This is obviously being done here. The last thing we need as a society is to give a person with obvious mental issues access to the supply of drugs at a hospital.

Jim Knight

Tue, Sep 15, 2009 : 5:19 p.m.

For more on our moderation policy, please visit: http://www.annarbor.com/about/comment-moderation-guidelines-meant-to-cultivate-community-forum/

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Sep 15, 2009 : 5:15 p.m.

Let's say they did damage her. If it was personal, then the lawsuit shouldn't be against the university and the university should discipline those responsible. And the amount? That's just lottery money. Maybe if it were for beginning nursing wages for two years and refunding her tuition. But this is just wrong. Two wrongs don't make a right. Since when did our judicial system replace the state lottery?

Paul Taylor

Tue, Sep 15, 2009 : 5:12 p.m.

It would be nice to read what 'honor code' violation caused this.

Jim Knight

Tue, Sep 15, 2009 : 5:10 p.m.

Two comments have been removed because they contained a personal attack.

treetowncartel

Tue, Sep 15, 2009 : 4:31 p.m.

Uhm, maybe they shouldn't have damaged her, then they wouldn't have had to pay.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Sep 15, 2009 : 4:09 p.m.

Lovely. Where does a jury come to the conclusion that even if officers of our university disciplined her too strongly, that it was worth giving Zwick $1.7 million? It's not like the people who made the mistake (or didn't) are being penalized, that's $1.7 million in taxpayer money that means less financial aid for many, many far more deserving students.