In this administrative law action, Parvez Dara, M.D. appeals from the decision of the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners revoking his medical license and ordering him to pay $30,000 in penalties. Dara also appeals the Board’s award of $372,029.28 in fees and costs to the State. The administrative penalties arose due to allegations that Dara had harmed his patients and employees by failing to implement proper infection control procedures. The Attorney General filed a Complaint with the Board against Dara, alleging that Dara neglected to maintain sanitary conditions or develop proper policies and procedures, improperly handled medication, and inadequately supervised staff, thereby resulting in a risk of harm, and actual harm, to his patients.
The second Count of the Complaint further alleged that Dara, despite having been on notice, repeated and deliberately violated Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards regarding toxic and hazardous substances, thus posing a danger to public health. Specifically, there were allegations that 29 of Dara’s patients had contracted Hepatitis B, stemming from his practice. When investigators from OCHD (Ocean County Health Department), DHSS, and the Board of Medical Examiners, inspected Dara’s office and interviewed his staff, they discovered that staff members often failed to change their gloves after performing invasive procedures, Dara failed to provide policies or procedures for the proper use and storage of medications and the office possessed neither a written infection control manual nor proper infection control policies and procedures. An expert testified that each of these breaches was significant, and, had been associated with outbreaks of diseases in the past. The expert opined to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that those patients infected with Hepatitis B suffered actual harm as a result of Dara’s improper practices.
The Appellate Division reviewed the Medical Board of Examiners’ decision. In so doing the Appellate Division evaluated: (1) whether the agency’s action violates express or implied legislative policies; (2) whether the record contains substantial evidence to support the findings on which the agency based its action; and (3) whether, in applying the legislative policies to the facts, the agency clearly erred in reaching a conclusion that could not reasonably have been made upon a showing of the relevant factors. The Appellate Division affirmed the Board’s decision and held that the Board member’s reliance on their own expertise in crediting the State’s experts over the defendants were not improper; there was no error in the Board’s partial reliance on the public health inspection team’s interview summaries with Dara’s staff in place of testimony adduced at the hearing; and in rejecting the Administrative Law Judge’s conclusion that the State had failed to satisfy its burden of proof that Dara had inflicted actual harm on his patients, the Board properly used the preponderance of the evidence standard.
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