District Court in New Jersey Rules That Hospital Staff MEC is Unincorporated Association and Can Be Sued

Friday, May 25, 2018
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On April 27, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, ruled that the Medical Executive Committee (MEC) of a hospital medical staff is an unincorporated association and thus has the legal capacity to sue or to be sued.  If the decision is upheld, it will have important implications for hospitals, members of their medical Staff, and hospital leadership.

Reinstatement of Clinical Privileges.

The lawsuit in question was filed by Dr. Frederick Nahas against Shore Medical Center (SMC) and its MEC. Dr. Nahas, was seeking to have his privileges reinstated at SMC after a guilty plea to obstructing a Medicare fraud investigation, according to the court. He filed several complaints related to adverse actions affecting his endovascular surgery privileges. He sued the hospital and the MEC alleging that SMC’s opposition to the reinstatement of his privileges violates the Sherman Antitrust Act. Shore Medical Center’s MEC argued that it could not be the subject of a lawsuit since it was not an entity subject to litigation.

Lawsuit Against Hospital MEC.

U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler of the District of New Jersey, based on the analysis of New Jersey law, determined that the MEC of a hospital medical staff is an unincorporated association and thus has the legal capacity to sue or to be sued.

The court relied especially on the fact that the members of the medical staff pay dues, which “implies an association with defined membership and defined boundaries,” and that the medical staff is established by the Board of Trustees. In addition, the court held that if Shore Medical Center’s Medical Staff was an unincorporated association with the capacity to sue or be sued, then the MEC could also sue or be sued.

Click here to read the court’s opinion in full.

For a summary of several prominent cases from federal courts throughout the nation in cases in which physicians sued hospitals and medical staffs for adverse peer review action taken against the physician, click here.

Visit our Areas of Practice page on our website to learn more about how The Health Law Firm can assist you in antitrust matters.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late, Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in the Process of Peer Reviews.

If you are the subject of a peer review proceeding, immediately retain experienced, knowledgeable health care counsel to represent you. The attorneys of The Health Law Firm have experience in most, if not all, types of "fair hearings" involving health care issues and health care providers.

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Booth, Michael. “Doctor Board Can Be Sued Separately From Hospital, NJ Federal Judge Rules.” The New Jersey Law Journal. (May 1, 2018). Web.

Blackmond, Barbara/Harrison, Robert. “New Jersey Federal Court Finds Hospital Medical Executive Committee May Be Sued as Unincorporated Association Under New Jersey Law.” AHLA. (May 15, 2018). Web.

Christian, Beth. “District Court Holds that Medical Staff Medical Executive Committee May Be Sued As An Unincorporated Association.” The National Law Review. (May 2, 2018). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

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