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Patrick A. Zoellner, M.D v. St. Luke's Regional Medical Center

June 19, 2012

PATRICK A. ZOELLNER, M.D.,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
ST. LUKE'S REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, LTD., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: U. S. District Judge Honorable Edward J. Lodge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

The Court has before it defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Federal and State Antitrust Claims (Dkt. No. 5). Having reviewed the briefing submitted by the parties, the Court has determined oral argument is unnecessary. For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant the motion to dismiss.

BACKGROUND

Dr. Patrick Zoellner is an anesthesiologist who practiced at St. Luke's Regional Medical Center from 2003 to 2010. Dr. Zoellner was not a hospital employee, however. He was employed by Anesthesia Associates of Boise. Anesthesia Associates is St.

Luke's exclusive provider of anesthesiology services.

Dr. Zoellner was forced to resign from Anesthesia Associates in the fall of 2010 when four principals told him that the company "had to go in a different direction . . . ." Id. ¶ 43. According to Dr. Zoellner, St. Luke's coerced Anesthesia Associates into terminating him by threatening not to renew the company's exclusive contract unless Dr. Zoellner was gone.

Dr. Zoellner says St. Luke's wanted to get rid of him because he insisted on safe scheduling practices for surgeries, whereas St. Luke's surgeons insist on scheduling surgeries at times that are not in the patients' best interests. As an example, Dr. Zoellner alleges that St. Luke's "often allows a neurosurgeon to perform surgeries from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, because he wants to take off Thursday through Sunday to go to Sun Valley." Compl., Dkt. 1, ¶ 32. More generally, Dr. Zoellner alleges that St. Luke's business culture "has been 'to keep the surgeons happy -- whatever the surgeons want.'" Id. ¶ 31.

In any event, Dr. Zoellner felt he had no choice but to accept the forced resignation because he was "[r]easonably concerned that he would be blackballed, receive no good references to be able to find other positions, receive no referrals for surgical work, and [be] faced with an immediate end of income." Id. ¶ 44. Dr. Zoellner accepted a job in Denver, but with "significantly reduced income." Id. ¶ 47.His wife was "also forced to abandon her medical practice in Boise." Id.

In August 2011, Dr. Zoellner sued St. Luke's, alleging federal and state antitrust violations, intentional interference with contract, and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage.

THE STANDARD

A motion to dismiss based on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) "tests the legal sufficiency of a claim." Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 731 (9th Cir. 2001). A complaint generally must satisfy "only the minimal notice pleading requirements" of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) to avoid a 12(b)(6) dismissal. Porter v. Jones, 319 F.3d 483, 494 (9th Cir. 2003). Rule 8(a)(2), "requires only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests . . . .'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)).

In considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), "all well-pleaded allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party." Wyler Summit Partnership v. Turner Broadcast Sys., Inc., 135 F.3d 658, 661 (9th Cir.1998) (citation omitted). The court does not necessarily assume the truth of legal conclusions merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations in plaintiff's complaint. See Clegg v. Cult Awareness Network, 18 F.3d 752, 754-55 (9th Cir.1994). "However, conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim." Epstein v. Wash. Energy Co., 83 F.3d 1136, 1140 (9th Cir. 1996); see also ...


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