Medical staff bylaws don't create an enforceable contract, says CA court

A California appeals court recently ruled that medical staff bylaws do not create an enforceable legal contract between a hospital and a physician, according to BNA's Health Care Daily Report.

This case (O'Bryne v. Santa Monica Hospital) involved the closure of Santa Monica (CA) Hospital's orthopedic department. That action called into question the hospital's right to limit the medical staff's ability to restrict or revoke a physician's practice and privileges--privileges to which he or she is otherwise entitled because he or she was found to be qualified in accordance with medical staff bylaws.

The court decided that physicians cannot sue hospitals for contract damages that result from unfair termination of privileges. This decision is the exact opposite of that reached by a California federal court in 1998 (Janda v. Madera Community Hospital). However, the court also ruled that because state law requires hospitals to have medical staff bylaws, the physician could still sue for injunctive relief to get back on the medical staff.