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Zoellner v. St. Luke's Regional Medical Center, Ltd.

United States District Court, D. Idaho

March 31, 2013

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

Page 1262

For Patrick A. Zoellner, M.D., Plaintiff: Daniel E Williams, THOMAS WILLIAMS & PARK LLP, Boise, ID; William H Thomas, Thomas, Williams & Park, LLP, Boise, ID.

For St. Luke's Regional Medical Center, Ltd., an Idaho corporation, Defendant: Elijah Martin Watkins, Sara Marie Berry, LEAD ATTORNEYS, STOEL RIVES, LLP, Boise, ID; J Walter Sinclair, LEAD ATTORNEY, STOEL RIVES, Boise, ID; Jeremy D Sacks, PRO HAC VICE, Stoel Rives LLP, Portland, OR; Nicole C Hancock, Stoel Rives LLP, Boise, ID.

OPINION

Honorable Edward J. Lodge, U.S. District Judge.

Page 1263

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

The Court has before it Defendant St. Luke's Regional Medical Center, Ltd.'s (" St. Luke's" ) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (Dkt. No. 29) and Plaintiff Patrick A. Zoellner, M.D.'s (Dr. Zoellner" ) Motion to Strike Portion of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Dkt. 35). Having fully reviewed the record, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding further delay, and because the Court conclusively finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, this matter shall be decided

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on the record before this Court without oral argument.

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 . . . ." Amended Complaint and Jury Demand, Dkt. 26, ¶ 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." Am. Compl., ¶ 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. On June 19, 2012, this Court granted St. Luke's motion to dismiss the federal and state antitrust claims, but granted Dr. Zoellner leave to file an amended complaint to see if Plaintiff could allege facts supporting an economic theory of harm to competition that is " 'plausible' in light of basic economic principles." William O. Gilley Enters., Inc. v. A. Richfield Co., 588 F.3d 659, 662 (9th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted). See Memorandum Decision and Order, Dkt. 25, p. 8.

On July 10, 2012, Dr. Zoellner filed his Amended Complaint adding paragraphs 49 -55. In these paragraphs, Dr. Zoellner alleges St. Luke's conduct was economically driven to avoid losing market share to St. Alphonsus and that St. Luke's alleged catering to surgeons' schedules was profit driven. Dr. Zoellner alleges his termination was due to his opposition to the practice of scheduling of surgeries and had a " chilling effect" on the remaining members of Anesthesia Associates from opposing allegedly unsafe scheduling practices. Dr. Zoellner alleges St. Luke's conduct led to a market-wide decline in the quality of surgical care provided by St. Luke's and increased costs when St. Luke's constructed another surgical room at one of its facilities.

St. Luke's filed its second motion to dismiss alleging the Amended Complaint still does not state a claim for relief under the federal and state antitrust statutes and also moves for dismissal of the state law tort claims of Intentional Interference with

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Contract and Intentional Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage.

MOTION TO STRIKE

Dr. Zoellner moves to strike the portion of the second motion to dismiss that relates to the state tort claims arguing St. Luke's failure to raise these arguments in its first motion to dismiss, prevents it from raising the arguments now. St. Luke's argues that under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) the defense of failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted cannot be waived, so its motion to dismiss the tort claims is timely. Alternatively, if not timely, St. Luke's argues there is no ...


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