Judge: Pennsylvania physician group can't enforce surgeon's noncompete clause

A Pennsylvania judge ruled that Scranton-based Commonwealth Health's physician group cannot stop a former surgeon from working for a local competitor, The Times-Tribune reported Aug. 21. 

Vascular surgeon John Kutz, MD, began practicing at Scranton-based Geisinger Community Medical Center in May after Commonwealth Physician Network told him in January that his contract was not being renewed, according to the report. 

Commonwealth Physician Network argued that Dr. Kutz breached his employment agreement, which prohibited from practicing medicine or surgery within 20 miles for two years, according to the report. 

The judge ruled against the physician group, stating the noncompete clause would be against public interest because it would compromise access to healthcare given a shortage of board-certified vascular surgeons in the Scranton market, according to the report. The judge also said Commonwealth lacked a protectable business interest to enforce the noncompete covenant. 

Commonwealth Health told the news outlet it strongly disagrees with the ruling and is evaluating appeal options.

An attorney representing Dr. Kutz told the news outlet the judge ruled that a healthcare provider "cannot enforce a restrictive covenant exclusively for financial gain."

"That's precedent setting and that is a tremendous help for all patients ... because it ensures continuity of care," the attorney said. 

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