July 23, 2004
Baylor threatens litigation against Methodist
The stakes in the ugly divorce between Baylor College of Medicine and The Methodist Hospital (earlier posts here) that has had medical officials in Houston's famed Texas Medical Center chattering for months just zoomed through the roof.
As predicted here earlier, Baylor Board of Trustees Chairman Corbin Robertson Jr. sent Methodist's board a letter on July 20 threatening legal action against the hospital if it doesn't stop alleged illegal interference with Baylor's medical business, putting its accreditation at risk by recruiting faculty under contract, evicting it from space, and refusing to negotiate a contract that would allot some faculty and residents to the hospital.
"Baylor and its longstanding programs at all affiliated hospitals will be damaged as a result of Methodist's actions," Robertson wrote in the July 20 letter. "It is our fervent desire to maintain or repair our relationship rather than engage in legal debates or worse, but you will, of course, understand the fiduciary obligation of the Baylor board to assure Baylor's compliance with law and to safeguard our assets."
Methodist officials reacted to the letter by calling its claims "highly offensive" and "not in the spirit of the Texas Medical Center," and by saying they have no intention of altering their actions. The now open free-for-all between the two former institutional partners is a remarkable development within the Medical Center community, which has always prided itself on harmonious relations between its various member institutions.
The conflict between Methodist and Baylor has been escalating since the two institutions decided earlier this year to end their 50-year relationship in which Methodist served as Baylor's primary teaching hospital for medical students and residents. St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital is Baylor's new primary teaching hospital, and Baylor is now building its own outpatient clinic. Methodist in turn recently entered into a relationship with Cornell University's Weill Medical School, which is in New York.
In the wake of their split, conflicts have developed between Baylor and Methodist over a new affiliation agreement, Baylor's use of space at Methodist, and over retention of staff and faculty physicians. After a Methodist official earlier this year stated publicly that Methodist hospital division chiefs ? most of whom also are Baylor department chairmen ? needed to choose between the two institutions, Methodist's chief of surgery resigned from the hospital and Baylor's chairman of pathology resigned from the college. More doctor fallout from the two institutions is expected.
Mr. Robertson's letter focuses on rank-and-file Baylor faculty, most of whom are under contract. The letter contends that Methodist's "aggressive recruiting" of those faculty members amounts to tortious interference with Baylor's contractual relations.
Stay tuned on this front folks. As we say in the legal community: "Let's get ready to rumble!"
Posted by Tom at July 23, 2004 5:48 AM |
Interesting. Which firms do you think are in best position to act as outside counsel should legal process be initiated?
Posted by: TP at July 23, 2004 11:12 AM
TP, Fulbright has traditionally represented Baylor, although they might be inclined to go outside and hire a business plaintiff's lawyer such Robin Gibbs or Steve Susman and Lee Godfrey. That would certainly get Methodist's attention. My bet is that Baker & Botts would probably represent Methodist.
Posted by: Tom Kirkendall at July 23, 2004 1:09 PM
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