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Ireland v. Bend Neurological Associates LLC

United States District Court, D. Oregon

February 7, 2018

STEPHEN IRELAND M.D., an individual, Plaintiff,
v.
BEND NEUROLOGICAL ASSOCIATES LLC, an Oregon limited liability company; BEND MEMORIAL CLINIC, P.C., an Oregon professional corporation; MICHAEL BELL M.D., P.C., an Oregon professional corporation; MICHAEL BELL M.D., an individual; DAVID T. SCHLOESSER M.D., P.C., an Oregon professional corporation; DAVID SCHLOESSER M.D., an individual; LAURA J. SCHABEN M.D., P.C., an Oregon professional corporation; LAURA SCHABEN M.D., an individual; FRANCENA ABENDROTH M.D., an individual; CRAIGAN GRIFFIN M.D., an individual; GARY BUCHHOLZ M.D., an individual; and GARY D. BUCHHOLZ M.D., P.C., an Oregon professional corporation, Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

          JOLIE A. RUSSO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         On October 26, 2016, pro se plaintiff Stephen Ireland initiated this lawsuit against defendants Bend Memorial Clinic, P.C. (“BMC”), Bend Neurological Associates, LLC (“BNA”), Francena Abendroth, Craigan Griffin, Michael Bell, David Schloesser, Laura Schaben, and Gary Buchholz, asserting claims for unlawful conspiracy in restraint of trade and intentional interference with economic relations (“IIER”).

         Between November 2016 and January 2017, defendants separately moved to dismiss this action in its entirety. On August 8, 2017, the Court granted defendants' motions. Ireland v. Bend Neurological Assocs. LLC (“Ireland I”), 2017 WL 3404970 (D. Or. May 23), adopted by 2017 WL 3401268 (D. Or. Aug. 8, 2017).

         On August 22, 2017, plaintiff moved for leave to file a proposed First Amended Complaint. On December 11, 2017, the Court denied plaintiff's motion. Ireland v. Bend Neurological Assocs. LLC (“Ireland II”), 2017 WL 6329561 (D. Or. Nov. 6), adopted by 2017 WL 6329706 (D. Or. Dec. 11, 2017).

         Plaintiff now moves to file a proposed Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 15. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's motion should be denied and this case should be dismissed.

         BACKGROUND

         The history of this matter is well known to all parties. Plaintiff and the individual defendants are neurologists. SAC ¶¶ 29-42 (doc. 92-1). Prior to August 2015, plaintiff and the individual defendants practiced in Bend, Oregon, with corresponding hospital privileges at St. Charles Medical Center-Bend (“SCMC”). Id. ¶¶ 39-40, 42, 65. Insurance providers “in the Bend service area require that physicians provide hospital coverage for their patients.” Id. at ¶ 53. Similarly, SCMC's bylaws require physicians to supply emergency call coverage for their patients: “if a physician's patient presents to the hospital with a problem that falls within that physician's scope of practice and requires immediate in-person evaluation, the physician, or another physician with similar training, must be present at the bedside within 40 minutes.” Id. at ¶ 49. Failure to comply with SCMC's bylaws “can result in disciplinary action, including the loss of medical staff privileges.” Id. at ¶ 50.

         At some unspecified time, plaintiff opened his own clinic, Neurology of Bend (“NOB”), in “a 4300 square foot office building with three dedicated physician offices, eight examining rooms, [and] rooms for the performance of electroencephalography and electromyography and state-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging suite.” Id. at ¶¶ 1, 82. In 2012, “the last full year NOB had two practicing neurologists, Plaintiff's income was far beyond the 90th percentile for neurologists nationwide, ” such that “NOB represented an excellent opportunity for an associate.”[1] Id. at ¶¶ 83, 114. Due to NOB's “very large overhead, ” plaintiff “began searching for an associate in early 2013.” Id. at ¶¶ 84, 87. BNA and BMC “were, also, planning to engage additional neurologists” around the same time. Id. at ¶¶ 86-87.

         In early June 2013, Bell, Schaben, Schloesser, Griffin, and Abendroth sent plaintiff a letter specifying that, beginning July 1, 2013 (the first day of the new six month call schedule), they would “no longer call share with you and your practice.” Id. at ¶ 56. On June 12, 2013, Bell, Schaben, Schloesser, Griffin, and Abendroth sent plaintiff a second letter reiterating their intent to “end . . . call sharing in any circumstances with you and your clinic” and instructing plaintiff to “make alternative arrangements to cover your patients if you will be unavailable.” Id. at ¶ 57.

         In response to plaintiff's request for further clarification, Abendroth sent an email several days later stating, in relevant part:

You are responsible for covering your patients 24/7 or arranging appropriate coverage in your absence, which includes coverage for your patients if they present to the ER or are admitted to the hospital and require, in person, neurological care. If you, or an appropriate covering provider, are not available to respond in a timely manner, the medical staff provider will be notified by the ER or admitting provider to request coverage of the patient as an unassigned patient, and an EMS report filed.

Id. at ¶ 58. While Buchholz was not a signatory to either letter, he nonetheless stopped sharing call coverage with plaintiff on July 1, 2013. Id. at ¶¶ 60-68.

         According to plaintiff, defendants' decision to no longer share call coverage resulted in only two equally untenable options: “1) constrain his personal and professional activities so that he was available, 24/7/365, to get to [SCMC] within 40 minutes for the rest of his career or 2) relinquish his Medical Staff privileges, attempt to continue to practice in Bend and suffer the severe financial consequences.” Id. at ¶¶ 69, 131. Plaintiff “did not accept either option, ” and instead “retained his hospital privileges and . . . left town when business or personal reasons required.” Id. at ¶¶ 10-12, 52, 93, 131. In other words, plaintiff continued to travel and pursue financial opportunities out-of-town, “just as he had before the boycott, ” such that no “injury . . . from Defendants' actions” occurred while he remained in Bend. Id.

         In September 2015, plaintiff began a new job in Meridian, Idaho. Id. at ¶¶ 12-13, 116. Prior to relocating, plaintiff was required to close NOB and sell his office building and equipment “at a significant discount to [their] likely future value.” Id. at ¬∂ 114-16. Furthermore, because his family elected to stay in Bend, plaintiff incurred moving expenses, ‚Äúsignificantly increased living ...


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