Medical Staff Has No Legal Standing to Sue Hospital, Says Minnesota Judge

A Minnesota court has ruled that a physician medical staff is not an independent, legal entity and cannot sue the hospital where it operates, according to an American Medical News report.

Avera Marshall (Minn.) Regional Medical Center's chief of staff and chief of staff-elect sued the hospital in January on behalf of the hospital's medical staff. The suit, filed in the fifth district court, claims the hospital violated medical staff bylaws and prevented the chief of staff and medical executive committee from fulfilling their duties.

The complaint claims the new bylaws established by the hospital take "nearly all rights and responsibilities" from the medical staff and give the hospital absolute control over process requiring medical staff direction, according to the report.

District Judge Michelle Dietrich issued an opinion in July that the medical staff "would not exist but for the medical center" and that "it is not an independent legal entity with the capacity to sue or be sued," according to the report. Two physicians remain as independent plaintiffs in the case, but the judge dismissed the medical staff as a plaintiff.

A judge still must decide if hospital bylaws can be considered a contract between physicians and hospitals and if hospital management can unilaterally repeal bylaws. A decision is expected by the end of September.

Avera has argued the suit is the result of an anti-competitive effort by some physicians aligned with Willmar, Minn.-based Affiliated Community Medical Centers, a for-profit organization. Avera claims ACMS physicians want to control Avera's decisions and therefore expand ACMC's market share.

"The decision reflects the underlying reality of this case: The only individuals interested in pursuing this litigation are associated with a for-profit competitor of the hospital and are pursuing an agenda that is economic rather than medical," John Austin, a spokesperson for Avera, said in the report.

More Articles on Hospitals and Lawsuits:

Employees Sue Truman Medical Center in Kansas City Over Pension Plans
Radiology Group Sues St. Peter's Hospital in Montana Over Staff Privileges
Whistleblower Suit Alleges Florida Adventist Hospitals Overbilled Tens of Millions

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