In a decision filed on August 17, 2016, a federal judge in South Dakota has ruled that a South Dakota medical clinic, which is the only medical clinic offering specialist services in the community its serves, is subject to antitrust claims by patients who were denied care at the clinic because of their prior medical malpractice claims against the clinic.
The South Dakota medical clinic had more than its share of medical malpractice claims filed against it as a result of it allowing a felon who used an alias to perform surgeries at its facility. Thirty-nine South Dakota medical malpractice lawsuits were filed against the felon surgeon and the South Dakota medical clinic alleging that the surgeon had performed unnecessary spinal surgeries that caused harm to patients. The surgeon returned to his native Iran as the South Dakota medical malpractice lawsuits were piling up against him.
One of the South Dakota medical clinic’s pulmonologists was named as a defendant in twelve of the South Dakota medical malpractice lawsuits because he served on the executive board of a hospital that grants surgical privileges to physicians who practice at the South Dakota medical clinic, including the felon surgeon.
In August 2015, the South Dakota medical clinic terminated the provision of medical care to all patients who had been involved in medical malpractice lawsuits against it or any of its medical providers. The South Dakota medical clinic is the only provider of medical specialty services in the community it serves.
The plaintiff in the antitrust case is the wife of a patient who died in September 2015 due to respiratory complications that the wife claims were due to the refusal of the South Dakota medical clinic to provide him with necessary medical care. The wife claims that her husband was denied medical care at the South Dakota medical clinic because she and her husband had previously provided witness affidavits in a medical malpractice lawsuit filed against the South Dakota medical clinic, the pulmonologist, and the felon surgeon. The next closest pulmonologist was 60 to 80 miles from where the married couple lived: in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in Sioux City, Iowa, or in Norfolk, Nebraska.
The federal judge ruled on August 17, 2016 that the South Dakota medical clinic had a monopoly on specialist care in the plaintiff’s county of residence, and that the South Dakota medical clinic’s refusal to treat patients who were involved in the medical malpractice lawsuits against the felon surgeon could be in violation of federal antitrust laws. The federal judge’s twelve-page order denying the defendants’ motion to dismiss stated that the plaintiffs provided sufficient evidence that the defendants’ actions affected interstate commerce because the South Dakota medical clinic accepts Medicare funding and because four Nebraska residents who were also denied care at the clinic plan to join the plaintiffs’ antitrust lawsuit.
The federal judge stated that the plaintiff had standing to bring an antitrust lawsuit because she alleges that the South Dakota medical clinic had used its monopoly power to deny her husband care so that it could gain an improper advantage in the litigation involving the medical malpractice claims against the felon surgeon, and “[t]he damages are concrete and directly related to the restraint. Because plaintiffs have suffered an antitrust injury, plaintiffs have standing to bring their claim.”
If you or a family member were denied medical care that may be due to an illegal reason, you should promptly consult with a local medical malpractice attorney in your U.S. state who may investigate the matter for you and represent you in a medical malpractice claim and/or other claim involving the wrongful refusal to provide medical care.
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