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Restraining order denied in hospital lawsuit

May 1, 2012
By Deb Gau , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - A motion in a lawsuit against Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center, which would have prevented the hospital from making changes to its medical staff bylaws, was denied Monday in Lyon County District Court.

Another motion in the same lawsuit is still under advisement by a judge.

The lawsuit was brought against Avera Marshall earlier this year, by Dr. Steven Meister, the hospital's chief of staff, and Dr. Jane Willett, on behalf of the medical staff. The suit alleges that Avera Marshall violated medical staff bylaws and prevented the chief of staff and the hospital's Medical Executive Committee from fulfilling their duties. The plaintiffs are seeking a judgment that the medical staff bylaws are a contract between the hospital and medical staff.

An order filed by Judge Michelle Dietrich on Monday afternoon denied a motion for a temporary restraining order against Avera Marshall. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit had made the motion to keep staff bylaws from changing while the suit went through court. New staff bylaws at Avera Marshall are scheduled to go into effect May 1, said David Crosby, attorney for Avera Marshall.

Attorneys on both sides of the lawsuit said Monday the judge's order doesn't necessarily foreshadow the final outcome of the lawsuit. The judge has yet to rule on the original complaint and Avera Marshall's motion to dismiss the suit.

"I don't think it suggests one way or the other," said Kathy Kimmel, attorney for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

"It's an important procedural step," Crosby said of the order, but, "There's still a long way to go."

The denial of the temporary restraining order focused on the issue of "irreparable harm" in granting or not granting the order, Kimmel said. In the case of Avera Marshall and its medical staff, the judge felt no harm could be done that couldn't be remedied later, should the plaintiffs win the case. A memorandum accompanying Monday's order also discussed possible difficulties in enforcing a temporary restraining order in this case.

Kimmel said the order denying a temporary restraining order may be appealed. While the plaintiffs were considering their options, Kimmel said, as of Monday afternoon it hadn't been decided whether they would appeal.

Judge Dietrich's order included some additional conditions for the two sides of the lawsuit. If Avera Marshall makes additional changes to its policies or procedures, it needs to give the medical staff at least 60 days' notice, the order said.

The order also set a scheduling conference May 7, for attorneys to discuss the case with the judge.



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