The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Miller
Docket Nos. 86952, 87120 cons.-Agenda 11-January 2000.
This appeal considers what procedural rights, if any, a physician has under hospital bylaws when a hospital enters into an exclusive contract with a competing group of physicians for the performance of the same work as the physician performs. In two separate appeals from judgments entered in the circuit court of Cook County, the appellate court concluded that the plaintiff in this case was entitled to notice and a hearing before the hospital entered into an exclusive contract with a competing medical group (Garibaldi v. Applebaum, 273 Ill. App. 3d 536 (1995)), and that the plaintiff may recover damages for the period preceding the hearing that he eventually received on the matter (301 Ill. App. 3d 849). We allowed the defendants' separate petitions for leave to appeal from the appellate court's second decision (177 Ill. 2d R. 315(a)), consolidated the appeals for purposes of oral argument and disposition, and now reverse the judgment of the appellate court.
The plaintiff, Dr. Abel Garibaldi, is a board-certified cardiovascular surgeon who has had clinical privileges at St. Francis Hospital and Health Center, in Blue Island, since 1981. From 1981 to 1992, the plaintiff was a member of Cardiovascular Renal Consultants (Cardiovascular Renal), a group of physicians who performed, among other services, open-heart procedures at several hospitals in the Chicago area, including St. Francis. Dr. Robert Applebaum, Dr. Tammo Hoeksema, and Dr. Dominic Allocco were also members of Cardiovascular Renal. After internal differences arose over matters involving patient selection, operative procedures, and post-operative care, Cardiovascular Renal dissolved. A new group, defendant Cardiovascular Medical Consultants (Cardiovascular Medical), was later formed by Drs. Applebaum, Hoeksema, Allocco, and others, but it did not include the plaintiff.
Dr. Applebaum later entered into an exclusive contract with St. Francis that allowed only Dr. Applebaum, employees of Cardiovascular Medical, and those who subcontracted with Dr. Applebaum to perform open heart surgery at St. Francis. According to the plaintiff's subsequent complaint, the effect of this exclusive contract was to revoke his right to perform open-heart procedures at St. Francis without affording him the benefit of notice and a hearing, in violation of the hospital's then-current bylaws.
Article VII, section 3(c), of the hospital bylaws, "Corrective Action," states in part:
"Actions which limit, reduce, suspend or revoke membership or clinical privileges of a practitioner on the staff of the Hospital or revoke staff membership shall be deemed to be adverse to the practitioner and shall entitle the practitioner to notice and the hearing and appeal procedures as provided in Article VIII. These actions include:
(2) Reduction, suspension or revocation of clinical privileges and/or admitting privileges;
(4) Suspension or revocation of specific clinical privileges or Staff membership;
(5) Other similar actions.
Such actions constitute a recommendation by the Executive Committee to the Governing Body."
Additionally, article VIII of the hospital bylaws, "Hearing and Appellate Review Procedure," states in part:
"a. Any practitioner against whom an adverse recommendation has been made and which involves corrective action set out in Article VII, Section 3(c) shall have the right to request a hearing on the adverse recommendation under the terms and procedures described in this Article."
The initial exclusive contract between St. Francis and Dr. Applebaum took effect on January 1, 1993. The plaintiff commenced the present action on January 26, 1993, by filing a three-count complaint in the circuit court of Cook County. Count I of the complaint was directed against St. Francis, Cardiovascular Medical, and Drs. Applebaum, Hoeksema, and Allocco and sought declaratory and injunctive relief. Count I alleged that St. Francis, by entering into an exclusive contract with Dr. Applebaum, effectively revoked the plaintiff's clinical privileges without notice and a hearing, as required by articles VII and VIII of the hospital bylaws. Count II of the plaintiff's complaint alleged tortious interference with ...