Bleak House on the Jersey Shore

Remember Jarndyce v. Jarndyce in the Charles Dickens classic Bleak House?  The case drags on for so long that the only winners are the lawyers?  (Not that that’s all bad.)

Well, Jarndyce is playing out in a medical staff dispute on the Jersey Shore.  The latest chapter came out on March 14, when the federal court for New Jersey issued an opinion mostly favorable to Dr. Fred Nahas, who has been litigating for a decade to restore his endovascular surgery privileges at Shore Medical Center.  In fact, Fred’s legal battles go back to 2003, when he lost his license and privileges for Medicare fraud.

When Fred got his license back in 2006, he reapplied to Shore.  Shore took him through the internal process and then denied his application.  He sued in state court.  The court appointed a master, who recommended (a) granting general and vascular privileges and (b) granting endovascular privileges after a period of proctoring.  In 2009 Fred completed his proctoring and applied for endovascular privileges.   Shore took him through the internal processes and denied the request.

So Fred sued in federal court, alleging civil rights and antitrust violations.  Shore moved to dismiss, citing that (a) the earlier state court case and (b) the immunity provisions of the Health Care Quality Improvement Act of 1986 (HCQIA).  On March 14 the court denied the motion, noting that (a) the state case wasn’t exactly the same as this one and (b) Fred had alleged bad faith and antitrust and civil rights violations, all of which are excluded from HCQIA immunity.  Besides, the immunity is from damages, not injunctive relief.

But the HCQIA immunity issue isn’t over.  The court said that it would be glad to consider Shore’s summary judgment motion on the same issue if it wanted to submit one.  What’s more, the court gave Fred the right to amend his complaint to add another count.  Only after those matters are taken care of can consideration of the merits of the case even begin.

So Nahas v. Shore Medical Center, No. 13-6537, 2016 BL 78486 (D. N.J. 2016), may give Jarndyce a run for its money.

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