Judge allows $20 million lawsuit against Queen’s to move forward

Wajahat Khan alleges University enforced arbitrary penalties, breached a settlement agreement

The motion to arbitrate Khan's case was thrown out on Feb. 6. 

Last month, an Ontario Superior Court judge ruled a $20 million lawsuit brought by former medical student, Wajahat Khan, could proceed against Queen’s in civil court.

On Feb. 6,  Justice Graeme Mew tossed out a motion brought by Queen’s to have Khan’s claim arbitrated through judicial review, rather than civil action. This, in turn, allowed the suit to proceed.

None of the allegations against Queen’s have been proven in court and the University has yet to file a statement of defense against the action.

According to the ruling, Khan’s claim against the University originated from internal proceedings against him within Queen’s School of Medicine for alleged “lapses of professionalism.” 

Khan alleged proceedings against him wound up enforcing penalties that he claimed were excessive and violated a settlement agreement with the University, delaying his graduation for several years.

As a result, Khan is seeking damages for loss of potential income, damage to reputation, and mental and emotional distress. He’s also seeking a court order for Queen’s to grant him his degree.

When reached for comment about the suit, both parties declined, as the matter is currently before the court. 

According to the ruling, Khan’s alleged lapses of professionalism included an email sent to classmates containing “inappropriate language.” It’s also alleged he failed to respond to a page from a colleague who required his assistance with a patient in the operating room.

Khan, a practicing dentist in Kingston, wrote in his statement of claim that he’s completed “all of the academic requirements” of his medical degree. He also completed his medical clerkship and passed the Medical Council of Canada’s first qualifying exam. 

As a result of the alleged lapses and internal proceedings that followed, Khan still hasn’t graduated from Queen’s School of Medicine or been able to begin medical residency training at the University of Toronto, where he was accepted in 2013.

Khan began his education at Queen’s in 2007. Since 2011, and the beginning of the internal proceedings against him, he’s been fighting to graduate. 

According to the decision, in November of 2011, Khan was informed a review of his alleged unprofessional conduct was forwarded to Queen’s Progress and Promotions Committee (PPC), a body responsible for making decisions about promotions and remediation of students in the medical doctor program. 

On Nov. 21, 2011, the PPC ruled Khan had to withdraw from the program altogether based on his conduct.

Khan appealed the PPC’s decision, and, after meeting with the Committee, it was amended. Instead of withdrawal, Khan would be required to complete a year-long professionalism remediation program before graduating. 

After the PPC amended its decision, both parties entered into a settlement agreement and Khan agreed not to continue the appeal.

To complete his professionalism remediation program, the PPC asked Khan to participate in a Physician Workplace Support Program (PWSP), run by the Ontario Medical Association, to which he agreed. Khan also agreed to a preliminary assessment by the PWSP. 

The PWSP’s preliminary assessment report concluded Khan had “an extensive and chronic history of disruptive behaviour in multiple settings and workplaces.” The report recommended Khan complete a comprehensive assessment, including psychiatric and psychosocial evaluations and an interview with his wife.

The report also stated the PWSP couldn’t provide Khan with the formal academic remediation program in professionalism that he’d previously agreed to in the settlement agreement.

The PPC accepted the PWSP’s report and agreed Khan should complete the comprehensive assessment. The PPC said it would also require Khan to take additional courses at his expense.

Khan alleged that by forcing him to complete the comprehensive assessment—rather than the originally agreed upon professionalism remediation program—the PPC overextended its jurisdiction and breached its agreement with him.

Khan unsuccessfully fought the decision through two levels of internal university appeals, and by June 2015, had reached the end of his internal appeal options. 

In his statement of claim, Khan alleges the University “never explained” why it now insists he complete the comprehensive assessment because Queen’s “never formally asserted that [Khan’s] alleged lapses of professionalism arise from psychological or psychiatric failings, disorders, or related issues.”

Khan also argues he never had to complete the PWSP preliminary assessment in the first place, given his agreement with the University stipulated only a year-long professionalism remediation program.

In his decision, Justice Mew wrote Khan’s argument against the University is essentially that it “moved the goalposts” on the requirements for his graduation and, therefore, breached its agreement.

Justice Mew also pointed out that if, after exhausting all his internal appeals efforts, Khan was still forced to complete the comprehensive assessment, “an obvious question is what other remedy does he have?”

“I cannot at this stage rule out the possibility that, based on the facts as pleaded, [a court] might find that following the amended decision of the PPC … a line was crossed,” Mew wrote. Justice Mew noted, however, “It would still be open to the court on a full record to conclude that judicial review is the appropriate remedy.”

The proceedings are set to move forward once Queen’s files a formal statement of defense.

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