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ST. JOSEPH HEALTH CENTER Jury to decide doctor's privilege qualm

Thursday, February 24, 2005

WARREN -- An appeals court says a jury should decide if St. Joseph Health Center fairly denied an osteopathic physician medical staff privileges after the purchase of Warren General Hospital.
The ruling this week from the 11th District Court means Dr. Arthur G. Lapping has the right to take his case to a jury, said his lawyer, Michael Ognibene of Warren. A common pleas court judge in 2000 issued a directed verdict at the end of a trial, saying Dr. Lapping did not have a strong enough case to send it to a jury.
Dr. Lapping is an osteopathic, family-practice physician who held medical staff privileges at Warren General when it was purchased by HM Health Services on Jan. 3, 1996.
The appeals court said the issue of whether the conduct of HM's employees excused Dr. Lapping's failure to submit an application for medical staff privileges still must be decided in the lower court.
As the purchase was being negotiated, HM and Warren General contemplated how to best address the issue of combining the medical staffs of the respective hospitals after the sale.
The parties included a section in the purchase agreement, stating that "those physicians with medical staff membership at Warren General Hospital who have applied for privileges at St. Joseph Health Center have received the same membership status and the same clinical privileges ..."
Complaint filed
On Aug. 25, 1998, Dr. Lapping had filed a complaint alleging that HM refused to grant him medical staff privileges at St. Joseph. After a three-day trial in April 2000, HM moved for a directed verdict from the common pleas court.
That trial court stated that Dr. Lapping failed to produce any proof of actual damages as a direct result of the contract, including any proof that he lost any patients as the result of the alleged breach of contract, or that he ever had to hospitalize a patient at St. Joseph.