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Judge’s order in for part of Avera Marshall lawsuit

July 12, 2012
By Deb Gau , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - Answers to some, but not all, of the issues raised in a lawsuit brought against Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center on behalf of its medical staff were given in a judge's order filed in Lyon County District Court.

An order filed by Judge Michelle Dietrich on July 6 found that the hospital's medical staff was not an entity that could sue or be sued. However, the issue of whether Avera Marshall's medical staff bylaws are a contract with the staff is still 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.

Dietrich's order covered two motions for summary judgment made by Avera Marshall in the case. The first motion, asking for a ruling that the medical staff did not have the ability to sue, was granted.

The order said the medical staff was not an unincorporated association and didn't have standing or capacity to sue or be sued in court.

Kathy Kimmel, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said while the ruling means the medical staff as a group can't bring a lawsuit, there are still two individual plaintiffs in the case, Meister and Willett.

The judge's order also addressed a second motion for summary judgement. The motion, which dealt with the plaintiffs' request to be reimbursed for court costs and attorney's fees, was granted in part. The order said the plaintiffs would not be entitled to have attorney fees paid if their case prevailed, but they could be awarded court costs and disbursements.

Attorneys said the judge's order doesn't mean the lawsuit is finished yet.

"It doesn't deal with the heart of the case," which is the question of whether the medical staff bylaws are a contract, said Kimmel.

"I think the judge did a reasoned, thorough analysis," said David Crosby, the attorney representing Avera Marshall in the case. Crosby noted that Dietrich's order cited some additional legal cases besides the ones attorneys cited in their court arguments.

The judge has a period of 90 days after a June 27 hearing in which to issue a ruling in the lawsuit.



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