Florida health system accused of illegally poaching physicians from competitor

Physicians Regional Medical Group, Physicians Regional Medical Center-Pine Ridge and Physicians Regional Medical Center-Collier Boulevard, all based in Naples, Fla., sued Naples-based NCH Healthcare System in federal court June 12 for allegedly stealing physicians from its practice.

Here are five things to know about the lawsuit:

1. The lawsuit alleges NCH and its subsidiaries, Naples (Fla.) Community Hospital and NCHMD, recruited physicians employed by Physicians Regional after Physicians Regional expended the time and resources to develop mature practices for the physicians.

2. At the time NCH allegedly recruited the physicians, NCH allegedly knew the physicians had employment contracts with Physicians Regional that prohibited them from becoming an NCH employee for one year after their employment with Physicians Regional ended.

"Regardless, the NCH defendants deliberately acted in concert to recruit, negotiate with, and employ the physicians with full knowledge of the existence of the employment agreements and the restrictive covenant governing each physician," the complaint states.

3. Physicians Regional, which is represented by Lash & Goldberg in Miami, alleges NCH referred physicians to a lawyer who advised them that the restrictive covenant in their employment agreements with Physicians Regional was unenforceable, and they were legally free to sign employment agreements with NCH.

"This deceptive misinformation became a part of NCH defendants' recruitment pitch to PRMG physicians to breach their employment agreements with PRMG, made by both the NCH defendants and their counsel in advising the physicians employed by PRMG," the complaint states.

4. Physicians Regional claims it was damaged by NCH's "deceptive and unfair methods" of competition. "Because of the unconscionable conduct of the NCH defendants in poaching PRMG's employed physicians, Physicians Regional experienced a lost of patient relationships … with each physician who left PRMG's employment and breached the restrictive covenant when they became employed by NCHMD," the complaint states.

5. Since 2012, Physicians Regional alleges it hired seven physicians whom NCH subsequently recruited and hired in violation of their respective employment agreements with Physicians Regional.

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