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05/26/88 William Barrows, v. Northwestern Memorial

May 26, 1988

WILLIAM BARROWS, APPELLEE

v.

NORTHWESTERN MEMORIAL HOSPITAL ET AL., APPELLANTS



SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS

525 N.E.2d 50, 123 Ill. 2d 49, 121 Ill. Dec. 244 1988.IL.830

Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. George M. Marovich, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE RYAN delivered the opinion of the court.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE RYAN

Dr. William Barrows, the plaintiff, brought this action in the circuit court of Cook County, challenging the decision of defendant Northwestern Memorial Hospital (Northwestern) denying him membership on its medical staff. The trial court dismissed all four counts of the complaint on the basis that the staff decisions of private hospitals are not subject to judicial review. The appellate court reversed and remanded, holding that courts may review such decisions as a matter of public policy, to ensure that exclusions are not "unreasonable, arbitrary, capricious or discriminatory." (153 Ill. App. 3d 83, 90.) We granted Northwestern's petition for leave to appeal. 107 Ill. 2d R. 315.

Plaintiff's complaint alleged that he and another pediatrician had a working relationship with a group of obstetrical-gynecological (ob-gyn) physicians. Under their arrangement, the pediatricians would take over the care of babies born to the patients of the ob-gyn physicians. In January 1984, the defendant granted the ob-gyn physicians admission to the staff of Prentice Hospital, a facility operated by the defendant. These physicians transferred their staff affiliation to Northwestern. Plaintiff subsequently applied for admission to the staff at Northwestern. He was informed that Northwestern's pediatrics department did not need another pediatrician of plaintiff's particular qualifications, and that his application for staff admission was denied.

Plaintiff objected to the decision, arguing that defendant's bylaws permitted him to appear and be heard on the application. Defendant granted plaintiff a meeting, after which it again denied his application.

Plaintiff filed a four-count complaint, naming as defendants Northwestern, Dr. John J. Boehm, chairman of Northwestern's pediatrics service, Dr. James R. Hines, chief of staff at the hospital, and Dr. James A. Stockman III, chairman of the department of pediatrics. Count I alleged that the actions of the defendants amounted to a conspiracy to interfere with his business relationship with the ob-gyn physicians. Count II alleged that defendants' conduct unreasonably restrained trade in violation of the Illinois Antitrust Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 60-3). Count III asserted that certain unwritten rules governing staff admission constituted fraud. Count IV alleged that denial of hospital staff privileges should be reviewable as a matter of public policy.

In dismissing plaintiff's complaint the trial court relied upon two appellate court decisions, Mauer v. Highland Park Hospital Foundation (1967), 90 Ill. App. 2d 409, and Jain v. Northwest Community Hospital (1978), 67 Ill. App. 3d 420. Mauer, which is commonly cited as the leading Illinois case on the subject, presented virtually identical facts to those in the instant case. The plaintiff was denied staff membership at Highland Park Hospital. He initiated an action seeking to challenge the denial, but the trial court dismissed his complaint. In affirming the decision of the trial court, the appellate court stated:

"It is a well-settled rule that a private hospital has the right to refuse to appoint a physician or surgeon to its medical staff, and this refusal is not subject to judicial review; the decision of the hospital authorities in such matters is final. [Citations.]" (Mauer v. Highland Park Hospital Foundation (1967), 90 Ill. App. 2d 409, 412-13.)

The Mauer court further stated:

"Plaintiff asks this Court to 'modify' or 'repudiate' the general doctrine reiterated and adhered to by the foregoing decisions, notwithstanding that this doctrine is supported by 'the overwhelming weight of authority, almost approaching unanimity.' [Citation.] However, the only reason the plaintiff gives in his request that we dishonor established law, namely, that the enjoyment of public funds and the tax-free status of the hospital impresses it with a public interest requiring judicial review of internal decisions, has itself been dishonored and repudiated by the decided cases. We elect to follow the teaching of these cases, and we refuse to substitute our judgment for that of the hospital authorities regarding the acceptance of plaintiff for staff membership in a private hospital. Indeed, this doctrine is all the more fitting by virtue of the current Illinois law imposing potential liability on a hospital for the imprudent or careless selection of its staff members, without limitation to the amount of its liability insurance. Darling v. Charleston Community Memorial Hospital, 33 Ill. 2d 326 337-338, 211 N.E.2d 253 (1965)." (Emphasis in original.) Mauer v. Highland Park Hospital Foundation (1967), 90 Ill. App. 2d 409, 414-15.

While this court has not had occasion to review the issue, the Mauer "rule of non-review" has been generally applied by the appellate court of this State. (See, e.g., Settler v. Hopedale Medical Foundation (1980), 80 Ill. App. 3d 1074; Jain v. Northwest Community Hospital (1978), 67 Ill. App. 3d 420.) Also, as the Mauer court noted, the rule of nonreview has ...


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