New Jersey hospital must pay neurosurgeons $24.3M, appeals court rules

Alan Condon -  

An appellate court on Aug. 9 upheld a $24.3 million  award to a group of neurosurgeons who found the Valley Hospital in Ridgeview, N.J., breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing with them when it signed an exclusive agreement with another surgical group, according to Law.com.

Five notes:

1. The 11 neurosurgeons and their practice, Oradell-based New Jersey Brain and Spine, provided on-call coverage for the hospital's ER and were "instrumental" in obtaining specialized equipment — including biplane angiography and a Gamma Knife — that allowed Valley Hospital to treat stroke patients rather than transfer cases to Columbia University in New York City, according to court documents

2. Valley Hospital recruited Patrick Roth, MD, and his neurosurgical group to join its staff in 2003, when the hospital had only three active neurosurgeons on staff who specialized in spine surgery, according to the lawsuit. Dr. Roth indicated the mandate was to curb the flow of patients out of the hospital by building a contemporary neurosurgical practice. In the following years, he said the hospital developed an endovascular program, a biplane suite and was designated a comprehensive stroke center by HHS.

3. Hackensack (N.J.) North reopened in 2013, 6 miles from Valley Hospital, which previously made an unsuccessful attempt to purchase the site. Two of the plaintiff neurosurgeons met with Valley Hospital board president, Audrey Meyers, who allegedly was upset about their "lack of loyalty," according to the report. The surgeons claim Ms. Meyers was particularly displeased with the appointment of Roy Vingan, MD, as chair of surgery at Hackensack North. 

4. The relationship between Valley Hospital and New Jersey Brain and Spine ended in 2015 when the hospital inked an exclusive agreement with St. Elizabeth, N.J.-based Columbia Group, providing its neurosurgeons exclusive access to the Gamma Knife and biplane angiography, according to court documents. The surgeons at New Jersey Brain and Spine sued Valley Hospital in several claims, including breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and tortious interference with prospective economic advantage.

5. A jury returned a no-cause verdict on the breach-of-contract claim but found in favor of the neurosurgeons on the implied covenant claim. Valley Hospital's appeals and motion for a new trial were ultimately rejected because its arguments lacked merit and the court found no miscarriage of justice on the part of the plaintiffs, according to the court opinion.

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