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RALPH J. MILLER v. INDIANA HOSPITAL (04/03/80)

filed: April 3, 1980.

RALPH J. MILLER, M. D., APPELLANT,
v.
INDIANA HOSPITAL, A PENNSYLVANIA CORPORATION



No. 1221 April Term, 1978, Appeal from the Final Decree of the Court of Common Pleas of Indiana County, Civil Division Equity, No. 35EQ1977.

COUNSEL

John A. DeMay, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Stewart M. Flam, Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Cercone, President Judge and Wieand and Hoffman, JJ.*fn*

Author: Hoffman

[ 277 Pa. Super. Page 373]

Appellant's contentions may be summarized as follows: (1) appellee hospital breached its contract with appellant by failing to comply with those provisions of its bylaws governing the revocation of active staff privileges; (2) the findings of appellee's hearing committee were based upon hearsay evidence and were, therefore, not properly supported; (3) the annual reappointment of appellant to the hospital staff constituted a waiver of objections to prior misconduct; (4) appellee violated appellant's procedural due process rights under the Federal Constitution; and (5) appellee violated appellant's substantive due process rights under the Federal Constitution. We find appellant's contentions to be without

[ 277 Pa. Super. Page 374]

    merit and, accordingly, affirm the decree of the court below denying injunctive relief.

On February 16, 1977, Joseph White, a patient who had been under the care of appellant, Dr. Ralph Miller, died at the Indiana Hospital, appellee in this case. The following day, Dr. M. C. Williams sent a report to Dr. Richard Freda, the president of the medical staff, in which he stated that the quality of care which appellant had rendered to Mr. White was "below that which should be acceptable in any hospital." On February 22, 1977, Dr. Freda sent a letter to appellant inviting him to attend a meeting of the Executive Committee pursuant to the Indiana Hospital Staff Bylaws*fn1 regarding the charges which had been made against him. On February 24, 1977, Dr. Williams sent another letter to the Executive Committee formally requesting that action be taken to suspend appellant's staff privileges. This letter cited additional instances of inadequate care provided by appellant. On February 26, 1977, the Executive Committee held an informal meeting which appellant attended. Appellant refused to discuss the charges against him and left the meeting abruptly. On March 18, 1977, the Executive Committee sent written notice to appellant of its determination to recommend to the Board of Directors of the hospital that his active staff privileges be revoked. Appellant demanded a hearing and indicated his intention to exercise his rights to defend himself in accordance with the bylaws. Consequently, the Committee informed appellant of the hearing date and provided him with a list of charges against him and a list of proposed witnesses. The list of charges went beyond those included in the original complaint letter and request

[ 277 Pa. Super. Page 375]

    for revocation. In the interim, appellant requested that the Executive Committee appoint an impartial ad hoc committee to conduct the hearing because he viewed the Executive Committee as hostile and biased against him. The Committee denied the request and held a hearing beginning on June 15, 1977, and continuing for several days thereafter.*fn2 The hearing committee consisted of three members of the medical staff and one member of the dental staff. Both parties were represented by counsel. The hearing officer presiding over the proceedings was counsel to the hospital. The hearing committee recommended the revocation of appellant's staff privileges. The Executive Committee adopted the recommendation and appellant took an appeal to the hospital Board of Directors. After an adversary hearing, a committee of four directors affirmed the determination of the Executive Committee and the full board adopted their recommendation. On October 14, 1977, appellant obtained a preliminary injunction ex parte from the Court of Common Pleas of Indiana County, preventing revocation of his staff privileges. The court dissolved the preliminary injunction on February 9, 1978, and denied a permanent injunction on June 29, 1978. From that denial, appellant appeals to this Court.

The staff bylaws of a hospital constitute the terms of a legally binding contract between the hospital and the doctors on its staff. Berberian v. Lancaster Osteopathic Hospital Association, 395 Pa. 257, 149 A.2d 456 (1959). The hospital will, moreover, be held to a standard of strict compliance with its bylaws. Id. Thus, in Berberian, where appellant was removed from the hospital staff without notice or a hearing, contrary to the provisions in the bylaws, our Supreme Court enjoined the hospital from removing appellant until those requirements were met.

In the instant case, appellant contends that the hospital breached its contract with him by improperly commencing the proceedings ...


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