Breach • Summary Judgment • Immunity

Singh v. Pocono Med. Ctr., PICS Case No. 14-0220 (C.P. Monroe Dec. 30, 2013) Mark, J. (9 pages).

The court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment to dismiss a claim against a doctor who was not a party to the contract with plaintiff. The court denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment relating to the issue of liability for breach of the parties’ staff bylaws contract.

Plaintiff was a doctor who entered into a contract with defendants to undertake various medical staff services in return for staff privileges at the hospital. The parties entered into the staff bylaws contract in September 2006, and plaintiff resigned from his position on the hospital medical staff in September 2008.

In his complaint, plaintiff alleged the hospital violated the staff bylaws contract. In particular, plaintiff contended that the hospital prevented him from engaging in peer review activities and advocating his concerns about another doctor’s conduct.

Plaintiff conceded Dr. Goldner was not a party to the contract with plaintiff and agreed to dismiss all claims against that doctor, so the court granted that portion of defendants’ summary judgment motion.

The remaining questions before the court on summary judgment were whether the staff bylaws contract between the parties was in effect at the time of the matters alleged in plaintiff’s complaint, and whether plaintiff’s claim against the hospital was barred by the immunity provision of that contract.

The court held that staff bylaws constituted the terms of a legally binding contract between the hospital and the doctors on its staff, and that the contract in this case was valid and effective at the times of the alleged breach.

The contract contained an immunity provision that released from liability all medical staff, the board of directors, authorized representatives and third parties. The immunity provision did not specifically mention the hospital. Because such release clauses are strictly construed, the court determined the hospital was not immune from liability under the terms of the contract. Additionally, the hospital had stated in a conclusory manner that the immunity provision applied, without specifying how the hospital came within the scope of that provision.

The issue of whether the hospital breached the staff bylaws contract it had entered into with plaintiff was a question of fact better left for trial. The court denied that portion of defendants’ motion for summary judgment.