New Jersey court rules physician board, hospital can be sued separately: 4 notes

A U.S. District Court of New Jersey judge issued a ruling April 27 noting a hospital's medical executive committee can be sued separately from the hospital it serves, according to the New Jersey Law Journal.

The decision stemmed from the case of a New Jersey surgeon seeking to reclaim his medical privileges at Somers Point, N.J.-based Shore Medical Center.

Here are four things to know about the case and the judge's decision.

1. In 2002, Frederick Nahas, MD, pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of preventing, obstructing, misleading and delaying the communication of information and records relating to a healthcare investigation, according to court documents cited by the New Jersey Law Journal. He was sentenced to one month in prison, three months of home confinement, 100 hours of community service and three years of probation and was fined $20,000.

2. Following his conviction, Shore Medical Center rescinded his vascular surgical privileges in 2003 for three years. In 2005, the State Board of Medical Examiners suspended Dr. Nahas' medical license for nine months.

3. While Dr. Nahas' medical license was restored in 2006, Shore Medical Center has not reinstated all of his surgical privileges. The hospital's medical executive committee, which comprises department chairs, at-large members and other physicians, restored only some of his privileges. Dr. Nahas proceeded to sue the committee. However, the committee argued it could not be sued because it was not an entity subject to litigation, according to the report.

4. U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler sided with Dr. Nahas in his April 27 ruling, stating the committee "has the capacity to sue or be sued" because it is a "decision-making entity."

"When an association is sufficiently distinct and its membership is distinguishable from the entity, it can be found to be an unincorporated association with the capacity to be sued," Mr. Kugler wrote in the ruling. "Although this court has misgivings about the analytical rigor of treating a group of people on a committee as a singular committee for purposes of legal capacity, the clear trend under New Jersey law is to regard such groups as unincorporated associations."

To access the report, click here.

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