466 U.S. 2 (1984), 82-1031, Jefferson Parish Hospital District No. 2 v. Hyde

Docket Nº:No. 82-1031
Citation:466 U.S. 2, 104 S.Ct. 1551, 80 L.Ed.2d 2
Party Name:Jefferson Parish Hospital District No. 2 v. Hyde
Case Date:March 27, 1984
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 2

466 U.S. 2 (1984)

104 S.Ct. 1551, 80 L.Ed.2d 2

Jefferson Parish Hospital District No. 2

v.

Hyde

No. 82-1031

United States Supreme Court

March 27, 1984

Argued November 2, 1983

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

A hospital governed by petitioners has a contract with a firm of anesthesiologists requiring all anesthesiological services for the hospital's patients to be performed by that firm. Because of this contract, respondent anesthesiologist's application for admission to the hospital's medical staff was denied. Respondent then commenced an action in Federal District Court, claiming that the exclusive contract violated § 1 of the Sherman Act, and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The District Court denied relief, finding that the anticompetitive consequences of the contract were minimal, and outweighed by benefits in the form of improved patient care. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding the contract illegal "per se." The court held that the case involved a "tying arrangement" because the users of the hospital's operating rooms (the tying product) were compelled to purchase the hospital's chosen anesthesiological services (the tied product), that the hospital possessed sufficient market power in the tying market to coerce purchasers of the tied product, and that, since the purchase of the tied product constituted a "not insubstantial amount of interstate commerce," the tying arrangement was therefore illegal "per se."

Held: The exclusive contract in question does not violate § 1 of the Sherman Act. Pp. 9-32.

(a) Any inquiry into the validity of a tying arrangement must focus on the market or markets in which the two products are sold, for that is where the anticompetitive forcing has its impact. Thus, in this case, the analysis of the tying issue must focus on the hospital's sale of services to its patients, rather than its contractual arrangements with the providers of anesthesiological services. In making that analysis, consideration must be given to whether petitioners are selling two separate products that may be tied together, and, if so, whether they have used their market power to force their patients to accept the tying arrangement. Pp. 9-18.

(b) No tying arrangement can exist here unless there is a sufficient demand for the purchase of anesthesiological services separate from hospital services to identify a distinct product market in which it is efficient to offer anesthesiological services separately from hospital services. The

Page 3

fact that the exclusive contract requires purchase of two services that would otherwise be purchased separately does not make the contract illegal. Only if patients are forced to purchase the contracting firm's services as a result of the hospital's market power would the arrangement have anticompetitive consequences. If no forcing is present, patients are free to enter a competing hospital and to use another anesthesiologist instead of the firm. Pp. 18-25.

(c) The record does not provide a basis for applying the per se rule against tying to the arrangement in question. While such factors as the Court of Appeals relied on in rendering its decision -- the prevalence of health insurance as eliminating a patient's incentive to compare costs, and patients' lack of sufficient information to compare the quality of the medical care provided by competing hospitals -- may generate "market power" in some abstract sense, they do not generate the kind of market power that justifies condemnation of tying. Tying arrangements need only be condemned if they restrain competition on the merits by forcing purchases that would not otherwise be made. The fact that patients of the hospital lack price consciousness will not force them to take an anesthesiologist whose services they do not want. Similarly, if the patients cannot evaluate the quality of anesthesiological [104 S.Ct. 1554] services, it follows that they are indifferent between certified anesthesiologists even in the absence of a tying arrangement. Pp. 26-29.

(d) In order to prevail in the absence of per se liability, respondent has the burden of showing that the challenged contract violated the Sherman Act because it unreasonably restrained competition, and no such showing has been made. The evidence is insufficient to provide a basis for finding that the contract, as it actually operates in the market, has unreasonably restrained competition. All the record establishes is that the choice of anesthesiologists at the hospital has been limited to one of the four doctors who are associated with the contracting firm. If respondent were admitted to the hospital's staff, the range of choice would be enlarged, but the most significant restraints on the patient's freedom to select a specific anesthesiologist would nevertheless remain. There is no evidence that the price, quality, or supply or demand for either the "tying product" or the "tied product" has been adversely affected by the exclusive contract, and no showing that the market as a whole has been affected at all by the contract. Pp. 29-32.

686 F.2d 286, reversed and remanded.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 32. O'CONNOR,

Page 4

J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which BURGER, C.J., and POWELL and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined, post, p. 32.

STEVENS, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

At issue in this case is the validity of an exclusive contract between a hospital and a firm of anesthesiologists. We must decide whether the contract gives rise to a per se violation of § 1 of the Sherman Act1 because every patient undergoing

Page 5

surgery at the hospital must use the services of one firm of anesthesiologists, and, if not, whether the contract is nevertheless illegal because it unreasonably restrains competition among anesthesiologists.

In July, 1977, respondent Edwin G. Hyde, a board-certified anesthesiologist, applied for admission to the medical staff of East Jefferson Hospital. The credentials committee and the medical staff executive committee recommended approval, but the hospital board denied the application because the hospital was a party to a contract providing that all anesthesiological services required by the hospital's patients would be performed by Roux & Associates, a professional medical corporation. Respondent then commenced this action seeking a declaratory judgment that the contract is unlawful and an injunction ordering petitioners to appoint him to the hospital staff.2 After trial, the District Court denied relief, finding that the anticompetitive consequences of the Roux contract were minimal, and outweighed by benefits in the form of improved patient care. 513 F.Supp. 532 (ED La.1981). The Court of Appeals reversed because it was persuaded that the contract was illegal "per se." 686 F.2d 286 (CA5 1982). We granted certiorari, 460 U.S. 1021 (1983), and now reverse.

I

In February, 1971, shortly before East Jefferson Hospital opened, it entered into an "Anesthesiology Agreement" with Roux & Associates (Roux), a firm that had recently [104 S.Ct. 1555] been organized by Dr. Kermit Roux. The contract provided that any anesthesiologist designated by Roux would be admitted to the hospital's medical staff. The hospital agreed to

Page 6

provide the space, equipment, maintenance, and other supporting services necessary to operate the anesthesiology department. It also agreed to purchase all necessary drugs and other supplies. All nursing personnel required by the anesthesia department were to be supplied by the hospital, but Roux had the right to approve their selection and retention.3 The hospital agreed to

restrict the use of its anesthesia department to Roux & Associates and [that] no other persons, parties or entities shall perform such services within the Hospital for the ter[m] of this contract.

App.19.4

The 1971 contract provided for a 1-year term automatically renewable for successive 1-year periods unless either party elected to terminate. In 1976, a second written contract was executed containing most of the provisions of the 1971 agreement. Its term was five years, and the clause excluding other anesthesiologists from the hospital was deleted;5 the hospital nevertheless continued to regard itself as committed to a closed anesthesiology department. Only Roux was permitted to practice anesthesiology at the hospital. At the

Page 7

time of trial the department included four anesthesiologists. The hospital usually employed 13 or 14 certified registered nurse anesthetists.6

The exclusive contract had an impact on two different segments of the economy: consumers of medical services, and providers of anesthesiological services. Any consumer of medical services who elects to have an operation performed at East Jefferson Hospital may not employ any anesthesiologist not associated with Roux. No anesthesiologists except those employed by Roux may practice at East Jefferson.

There are at least 20 hospitals in the New Orleans metropolitan area, and about 70 percent of the patients living in Jefferson Parish go to hospitals other than East Jefferson. Because it regarded the entire New Orleans metropolitan area as the relevant geographic market in which hospitals compete, this evidence convinced the District Court that East Jefferson does not possess any significant "market power"; therefore it concluded that petitioners could not use the Roux contract to anticompetitive ends.7 The same evidence led the Court of Appeals to draw a different conclusion. [104 S.Ct. 1556] Noting that 30 percent of the residents of the parish go to East Jefferson Hospital, and that, in fact, "patients tend to choose hospitals by location, rather than...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP