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Prairie Rheumatology Assocs., S.C. v. Francis

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

December 11, 2014

PRAIRIE RHEUMATOLOGY ASSOCIATES, S.C., Plaintiff-Appellant and Cross-Appellee,
v.
MARIA FRANCIS, D.O., Defendant-Appellee and Cross-Appellant

Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois. Circuit No. 14-CH-24. The Honorable John Anderson, Judge, presiding.

SYLLABUS

In an action seeking to enforce a restrictive covenant in an employment agreement between plaintiff, a medical practice providing rheumatology services, and defendant, a licensed physician, the trial court's grant of a preliminary injunction enforcing the covenant with respect to defendant's treatment of plaintiff's current patients was reversed and the denial of injunctive relief as to plaintiff's former patients and any future patients was affirmed, since plaintiff failed to establish that adequate consideration was provided for the restrictive covenant and plaintiff likely would not prevail on the merits, especially when, inter alia, defendant received little or no benefit from her agreement not to compete, plaintiff did not help defendant in obtaining her hospital credentials or pay the credential fee as promised, and expedited advancement and partnership opportunities in plaintiff's practice were illusory.

Steven J. Rotunno (argued) and Noel P. Goudrea, both of Kubasiak Fylstra Thorpe & Rotunno, PC, of Chicago, for appellant.

Kristen E. Prinz (argued), Amit Bindra, and Jessica Fayerman, all of Prinz Law Firm, P.C., of Chicago, for appellee.

PRESIDING JUSTICE LYTTON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Carter and O'Brien concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

Page 59

LYTTON, PRESIDING JUSTICE.

[¶1] Plaintiff, Prairie Rheumatology Associates (PRA), brought an action for injunctive relief against its former employee,

Page 60

Maria Francis, D.O., seeking to enforce a restrictive covenant in the parties' employment agreement. The trial court granted preliminary injunctive relief to enforce the covenant as to PRA's current patients and denied preliminary injunctive relief as to former patients and any future clients. PRA appeals, arguing that the trial court misapplied the restrictive covenant test set forth in Reliable Fire Equipment Co. v. Arredondo, 2011 IL 111871, ¶ 17, 965 N.E.2d 393, 358 Ill.Dec. 322, and abused its discretion in declining to enforce the restrictive covenant as to the general public and potential future clients. Dr. Francis cross-appeals, claiming that the trial court's order to enforce the restrictive covenant should be reversed because the noncompete agreement lacked adequate consideration. We affirm in part, reverse in part and remand.

[¶2] PRA is a medical practice that offers rheumatology services in Joliet, Illinois. Dr. Maria Sosenko is a licensed physician who has been practicing as a rheumatologist in Joliet since 1986. She is the sole shareholder and president of PRA. PRA provides rheumatology services at its principal office in Joliet and at two area hospitals, Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center (Saint Joseph) in Joliet and Silver Cross Hospital (Silver Cross) in New Lenox. The majority of PRA's patients come from referrals from physicians, including many physicians on staff at the two area hospitals.

[¶3] Defendant, Dr. Francis, is also a licensed physician specializing in rheumatology. On January 7, 2012, she entered a " Physician Agreement" with PRA with an effective date of April 9, 2012. The agreement provided Francis with an annual salary and required PRA to assist her in gaining staff privileges at the two hospitals and pay her hospital dues. PRA also agreed to introduce Dr. Francis to PRA patients and referral sources, particularly the physicians on staff at the affiliate hospitals. The employment agreement included a 2-year, 14-mile noncompetition agreement in favor of PRA. The agreement provided:

" Physician covenants and agrees that she will not enter into a Competitive Practice (as hereinafter defined) at any time during the period beginning on the Effective Date and ending 24 months after the date of the Physician's termination of employment, whether such termination is voluntary or involuntary, for cause or without cause. The term 'Competitive Practice' shall mean the full-time or part3 time practice of rheumatology, directly or indirectly, alone or in any capacity, for, with or on behalf of another person, partnership, corporation, or other entity with a radius of 14 miles of Corporation's office[s] at which ...

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