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Hamilton Memorial Hospital District v. Toelle

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 7, 2014

HAMILTON MEMORIAL HOSPITAL DISTRICT, an Illinois governmental municipality, Plaintiff/Counterdefendant,
v.
APRIL TOELLE, Defendant/Counterclaimant, and DEACONESS HOSPITAL, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

This case began when defendant/counterclaimant April Toelle, a physician, stopped working for plaintiff/counterdefendant Hamilton Memorial Hospital District ("HMH") in the middle of a three-year contract term. Toelle left her employment with HMH mid-term and began working for defendant Deaconess Hospital, Inc. ("Deaconess"). HMH brings this suit for breach of contract against Toelle and for tortious interference with contract against Deaconess. Toelle brings a counterclaim against HMH for breach of contract and under the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act ("IWPCA"), 820 ILCS 115 et seq., for failing to pay her according to her contract. She believes HMH's failure to pay her properly excuses her failure to complete the contract term.

This matter comes before the Court on two motions for summary judgment:

• Toelle's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 69), to which HMH has responded (Doc. 87), to which Toelle has subsequently replied (Doc. 97); and
• Deaconess' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 80), to which HMH has responded (Doc. 97), to which Deaconess has subsequently replied (Doc. 103).

The Court also notes various evidentiary objections which had been filed as motions but which are more properly considered as part of the summary judgment briefing (Docs. 96, 98, 99, 104 & 110).

I. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment must be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath v. Hayes Wheels Int'l-Ind., Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2000). The reviewing court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Chelios v. Heavener, 520 F.3d 678, 685 (7th Cir. 2008); Spath, 211 F.3d at 396.

The initial summary judgment burden of production is on the moving party to show that there is no reason to have a trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; Modrowski v. Pigatto, 712 F.3d 1166, 1168 (7th Cir. 2013). Where the non-moving party carries the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may satisfy its burden of production in one of two ways. It may present evidence that affirmatively negates an essential element of the non-moving party's case, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A), or it may point to an absence of evidence to support an essential element of the non-moving party's case without actually submitting any evidence, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B). Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-25; Modrowski, 712 F.3d at 1169. Where the moving party fails to meet its strict burden of proof, a court cannot enter summary judgment for the moving party even if the opposing party fails to present relevant evidence in response to the motion. Cooper v. Lane, 969 F.2d 368, 371 (7th Cir. 1992).

In responding to a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party may not simply rest upon the allegations contained in the pleadings but must present specific facts to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-26; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57; Modrowski, 712 F.3d at 1168. A genuine issue of material fact is not demonstrated by the mere existence of "some alleged factual dispute between the parties, " Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247, or by "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, " Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists only if "a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the [nonmoving party] on the evidence presented." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

II. Facts

The evidence, taken in the light most favorable to the HMH where the parties disagree, establishes the following facts.[1]

A. The Employment Agreement

HMH owns and operates a hospital and an affiliated clinic in McLeansboro, Illinois. On December 4, 2009, HMH and Toelle, a physician, entered into the Physician Employment Agreement ("Agreement") pursuant to which Toelle agreed to work for HMH in the hospital and clinic from August 16, 2010, to August 15, 2013. The Agreement specifically provided:

Extent of Service. Physician is hereby employed full-time by Hospital and shall devote whatever time and efforts may be required for the performance of Physician's duties and as more fully described in the Job Description attached as Exhibit F. During the term of this Agreement, Physician shall not, except as otherwise expressly authorized by Hospital in writing, undertake any professional obligations of any kind or nature including, but not limited to, administrative and executive obligations, other than teaching and writing on Physician's own time. Physician agrees to notify Hospital if at any time Physician cannot fulfill Physician's obligation to fulfill Physician's duties in accordance with the terms of this Agreement.

Agreement § 2.6. The Agreement defines "Physician" as Toelle. Id. at § 1.4.

The Agreement contained several provisions for potential compensation above Toelle's base pay. For example, the following provision covers potential compensation for supervising midlevel practitioners, that is, nurse practitioners and physician assistants:

Supervisor. Physician shall be paid $500 per month for each nurse practitioner or physician assistant supervised by Physician in a primary supervision role. Supervision shall include both quality and quantity of the nurse practitioner's or physician assistant's work. During any vacancy when there is no nurse practitioner or physician assistant to supervise, this compensation will not be paid. Hospital has the final decision as to which physician is the supervising physician for each nurse practitioner or physician assistant it employs. Physician's supervisory duties shall be as set forth in Exhibit D and are subject to change as reasonably necessary.

Id. at § 5.5. Exhibit D defined the "Duties as Supervisor":

Participates in joint formulation and approval of orders or guidelines with the nurse practitioner or physician assistant
Periodically reviews orders and the services provided patients under orders in accordance with accepted standards of medical practice and advanced practice nursing practice
Meets in person with the nurse practitioner or physician assistant to provide collaboration and consultation
Is available through telecommunications for consultation on medical problems, complications or emergencies or patient referral
Reviews medical records of midlevel providers in accordance with Hospital guidelines and guidelines for rural health clinics

Id., Ex. D.

The Agreement also contained the following provision covering potential compensation for serving as medical director of the clinic:

Medical Director. Physician shall be paid $500 per month to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of Medical Director of the Rural Health Clinic should the Hospital determine the need to do so. Final determination of which physician is the Medical Director is that of the Hospital. Physician's duties as Medical Director shall be as set forth in Exhibit E and are subject to change as may be reasonably necessary.

Id. at § 5.6. No provision of the Agreement states that one physician cannot serve both as a nurse practitioner primary ...


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