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Physician-Patient Relationship

Bayside Oncology/Hematology v. Fong, 2001 Cal. LEXIS 4753 (2001)

Also under Restrictive covenants

Outcome:     Very unfavorable

Issue

This suit defends a physician’s right and obligation to notify his patients when he leaves one practice and starts another.

AMA interest

The AMA believes that when a physician leaves a group practice to start a new practice the physician’s patients should be informed of the physician’s new address and offered the opportunity to have their medical records forwarded to the departing physician.

Case summary

Dr. Fong contracted to serve as an oncologist for Bayside Oncology/Hematology Associates, a medical corporation (“Bayside”). Bayside fired him, and he then notified his former patients that he had opened an oncology practice in the same office complex in which Bayside was located.

Learning of the notice to the patients, Bayside sued Dr. Fong. Dr. Fong counterclaimed. Ultimately, the jury rendered a verdict on two of the counts in favor of Bayside and against Dr. Fong in the total amount of $1,256,500. On Dr. Fong’s counterclaim, the jury verdict, based on one of the counts, was $473,000. One element of the jury’s verdict against Dr. Fong (in the amount of $756,500) was based on a finding that he had violated the California statute against unfair competition by “soliciting” patients from Bayside.

The Court of Appeal affirmed in part and reversed in part. It found that Dr. Fong had improperly solicited his former patients.

Litigation Center involvement

The California Medical Association (CMA) and the Litigation Center filed an amicus brief supporting Dr. Fong. The brief argued that Dr. Fong’s actions, which conformed to the ethical standards of the CMA and the AMA, did not constitute wrongful solicitation.

Riuli v. Barakat (Md. Spec. App.)

Also under Ethics

Outcome:    Neutral

Issue

The issue in this case was whether physicians should have legal standing to advocate for their patients.

AMA interest

The AMA believes that physicians have the right and the responsibility to advocate for their patients.

Case summary

A cardiology practice dissolved its partnership.  The departing physicians set up a new practice, while the remaining physicians carried on the old one.  The departing physicians, citing CEJA Opinion 7.03, contended that either they or the former partnership was required to notify the patients of the old practice of the new address of the departing physicians.  The issue was how many of those patients should be notified.  The departing physicians said that 10,000 patients should be notified, whereas the remaining physicians said that only 1,500 patients should be notified.

The trial court held that, although the patients of the departing physicians deserved notice of their new address, the departing physicians themselves lacked standing to request such notification.  Therefore, the trial court refused to decide how many patients should have received the notice.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part.  The Court held that the departing physicians had waived their argument that they had standing to vindicate their patients’ rights.  The court remanded the case, because the trial court had erroneously failed to consider whether the plaintiffs should be allowed to seek modification of the injunction due to a change in circumstances.

The case ultimately settled.

Litigation Center involvement

The Litigation Center along with MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society, filed an amicus brief supporting the appeal.  The brief did not take sides between the physicians on the ultimate merits, and it did not suggest how many patients should have received the notice.

Tania Heller, MD (In re Daiquan Evans; Cir. Ct. for Montgomery Cnty., Md.)

Outcome:    Favorable

Issue

The issue in this case was whether a physician can be ordered by a court of law to provide medical services to a patient, absent an emergency.

AMA interest

The AMA believes that a physician, in the provision of appropriate patient care, should be free to choose whom to serve and the environment in which to provide medical care.

Case summary

A Special Counsel for Montgomery County, Maryland asked the Juvenile Court to order Dr. Tania Heller to provide medical weight loss services for a 400 pound 17 year old boy.  Dr. Heller objected to the appointment, but the court nevertheless ordered her to perform the requested services.

Dr. Heller then filed a motion for reconsideration and brought the matter to the attention of MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society.  After further consideration and consultation, Dr. Heller’s attorney sent a letter to the regular County Attorney.  The letter indicated that, without having met and examined the boy, she was unable to determine if her services would actually help him.  In response to the letter, the County Attorney advised Dr. Heller that the Department of Health and Human Services had changed its mind and no longer wanted Dr. Heller to perform medical services on the boy.  The court then vacated the order and dismissed Dr. Heller.

Litigation Center involvement

The Litigation Center made a monetary contribution to MedChi, which contributed toward Dr. Heller’s legal expenses.