Judge: Physician's hiring collusion lawsuit will extend to roughly 5,600 medical school professors at Duke, UNC

A U.S. District Court judge ruled Feb. 1 a former Durham, N.C.-based Duke University School of Medicine physician's lawsuit claiming Duke engaged in hiring collusion with a neighboring university will become a class-action lawsuit covering more than 5,600 professors between the two institutions, according to The News & Observer.

Here are five things to know about the judge's ruling.

1. U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles ruled Thursday the class-action lawsuit will cover any faculty member at Duke and the Chapel Hill, N.C.-based UNC School of Medicine who has held an "academic appointment" at either institution from Jan. 1, 2012, to present day, equating to roughly 5,649 faculty members, the report states.

2. The judge ruled out nonfaculty physicians, nurses and "other skilled medical staff" because including them would "make it very difficult" to manage the case and may confuse a jury, according to the report.

3. The ruling represents the latest move in lengthy legal case spanning roughly three years. Danielle Seaman, MD, a former assistant professor of radiology at Duke, filed a lawsuit in 2015 against the university, alleging she lost out on a parallel faculty post at UNC due to an alleged agreement between the two institutions prohibiting them from hiring each other's employees. Dr. Seaman claimed in the lawsuit the institutions' agreement suppressed competition and wages and violated antitrust laws.

4. William L. Roper, MD, dean of UNC's medical school, told lawyers last year he urged faculty to avoid "engaging in what I would view as a hostile, unneighborly behavior” toward Duke, and admitted he urged his counterparts at Duke to consider formalizing "some kind of understanding between us about the movement of faculty," the report states. However, he denied the existence of a formal agreement regarding hiring practices between Duke and UNC.

5. Duke has denied any instances of wrongdoing regarding its hiring practices. A former dean of the Duke University School of Medicine reportedly told the judge she was unaware of any lid on the school's hiring people from UNC, the report states.

To read the full News & Observer report, click here.

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