Physicians Awarded $22.8 Million after Losing Privileges
According to an article in the May 3, 1999 issue of American Medical
News, a Palm Beach County jury has awarded $22.8 million to two radiation
oncologists who had sued JFK Medical Center in Atlantis, FL, and the University
of Miami School of Medicine for entering into an exclusive contract that
led to the terminations of their privileges.
The two physicians practiced at JFK Medical Center under a temporary
injunction since December 1997. In their lawsuit, the doctors claimed
that the medical center's decision to terminate their privileges so that
they could enter into a new exclusive contract with the University of
Miami violated the hospital bylaws and interfered with the patient and
referring physician relationships established by the doctors over the
past 14 years.
"The case carried a lot of important implications for Emergency
Medicine," said AAEM president Robert McNamara, MD FAAEM. "This
ruling points out another tool democratic groups can use to prevent takeover
by a corporate entity. If the physicians are being forced out as part
of such a takeover they should assert their rights to due process as guaranteed
in the hospital bylaws. The JCAHO requires due process for members of
the medical staff so this should be a baseline right for members of democratic
The jury in the case concurred with the doctors. It awarded $2.5 million
in compensatory damages, with $1.9 million assessed against the hospital
and $600,000 against the medical school. The punitive damages were also
split between the two defendants, with $12 million assessed against the
hospital and $8.25 million against the medical school.
"This case is very interesting in light of AAEM's involvement with
democratic groups who are struggling to retain control of their practice,"
Dr. McNamara said. "It's likely that the head of EM who was forced
out of St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix surrounding the CHW-EPMG deal
would find parallels in this case."