MARSHALL - A lawsuit brought against Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center on behalf of its medical staff was back in court for a hearing Wednesday. Lyon County District Court Judge Michelle Dietrich said she would take a request for judgment in the suit under advisement.
The lawsuit was originally filed in January by Avera Marshall chief of staff Dr. Steven Meister and Dr. Jane Willett, on behalf of the hospital's 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 the medical staff.
Wednesday's hearing was focused on a motion made by the plaintiffs for a summary judgment on the case. Attorneys for both the plaintiffs and Avera Marshall laid out arguments on whether or not the hospital's staff bylaws are a contract between Avera Marshall and medical staff members. The hospital's medical staff includes all practitioners who have been credentialed and not just Avera employees.
David Crosby, attorney for Avera Marshall, argued that there was no precedent in Minnesota for the medical staff bylaws to be considered a contract, and that the medical staff was not a legal entity which could enter into a contract. He also said the Avera Marshall board of directors had the ultimate authority in making decisions for the hospital.
Kathy Kimmel, attorney for the plaintiffs, said it was "legally untenable" to claim the medical staff bylaws weren't a contract. She said the bylaws include requirements that affect physicians' jobs, like needing to be available for a certain amount of on-call duty. Kimmel cited court rulings in other states, including two in South Dakota involving Avera, where medical staff bylaws were found to be a contract.
Kimmel also argued that while medical staff members didn't have the final say in how the hospital was run, they had the right to choose who will be chief of staff or a part of the Medical Executive Committee.
Dietrich asked the attorneys several questions on different aspects of the case, including how the bylaws worked and whether they could be enforced. After the question period, she said she would take the matter under advisement.
The parties in the lawsuit were last in court in late May, regarding issues related to the plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order preventing Avera Marshall from implementing changes to the staff bylaws. Last week, Dietrich ruled that Meister could complete his current term as chief of staff. However, the ruling did not reconsider denying the restraining order.