December 24, 2012
Ohio Supreme Court Finds Claim by Foreign Student Time Barred
In September 1993, Mohamed Bassem Rayess, having graduated from a Syrian medical school and completed a residency in France, applied to United States Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (the Commission) to take Part I of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), which is split into four, three-hour exams administered over a two day period. Dr. Rayess took that exam and failed.
Fifteen years later, Dr. Rayess sued the Commission, alleging that it had failed to allow him the full time for his exam. For some reason, Ohio has a fifteen year statute of limitations for claims of breach of a written contract. Dr. Rayess attached to his complaint: 1) a copy of his application to take the USMLE and an acknowledgement of its receipt; 2) his letter enclosing payment for the exam and a copy of his cancelled check; 3) a transfer request (to take the exam at a different site) and evidence of payment for the transfer; 4) a copy of an informational pamphlet provided by the Comission and a confirmation regarding Dr. Rayess's test site; and 5) an account statement provided by the Commission, reflecting his payments.
The trial court found that these documents did not establish an express, written contract and dismissed the case base on the lapse of the six-year statute of limitations that applies to allegations of breach of an oral promise. An intermediate appellate court reinstated the claim. In Rayess v. Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, the Ohio Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the trial court's dismissal of Dr. Rayess's suit. In the suit, the Commission asked the Supreme Court to rule on the following proposition:
A written contract cannot exist when it is based on a general informational brochure coupled with supplemental evidence to establish the obligations of the parties.
The Supreme Court found that the documents that Dr. Rayess attached to his complaint did not suffice to establish a written contract. "Rather, the commission provided Rayess with an informational pamphlet describing the testing procedure, and Rayess submitted an application to take the examination. Neither the pamphlet nor the application imposed any express enforceable duty on the commission or Rayess." More specifically, the Commission made no express, written promises about test conditions or times. As a result the case was a dismissed, which is a shame, because it would have been very interesting to see how Dr. Rayess was going to prove that he was not allowed adequate time to complete his exam fifteen years ago.
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