486 U.S. 94 (1988), 86-1145, Patrick v. Burget

Docket Nº:No. 86-1145
Citation:486 U.S. 94, 108 S.Ct. 1658, 100 L.Ed.2d 83, 56 U.S.L.W. 4430
Party Name:Patrick v. Burget
Case Date:May 16, 1988
Court:United States Supreme Court

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486 U.S. 94 (1988)

108 S.Ct. 1658, 100 L.Ed.2d 83, 56 U.S.L.W. 4430




No. 86-1145

United States Supreme Court

May 16, 1988

Argued February 22, 1988




Petitioner, an Astoria, Oregon, surgeon, declined an invitation by respondents to join them as a partner in the Astoria Clinic, and instead began an independent practice in competition with the Clinic. Thereafter, petitioner experienced difficulties in his professional dealings with Clinic physicians, culminating in respondents' initiation of, and participation in, peer review proceedings to terminate petitioner's privileges at Astoria's only hospital (a majority of whose staff members were employees or partners of the Clinic), on the ground that his care of his patients was below the hospital's [108 S.Ct. 1660] standards. Petitioner filed suit in Federal District Court, alleging that respondents had violated §§ 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act by initiating and participating in the peer review proceedings in order to reduce competition from petitioner, rather than to improve patient care. Ultimately, the court entered a judgment against respondents, but the Court of Appeals reversed on the ground that respondents' conduct was immune from antitrust scrutiny under the state action doctrine of Parker v. Brown, 317 U.S. 341, and its progeny, because Oregon has articulated a policy in favor of peer review and actively supervises the peer review process.

Held: The state action doctrine does not protect Oregon physicians from federal antitrust liability for their activities on hospital peer review committees. The "active supervision" prong of the test used to determine whether private parties may claim state action immunity requires that state officials have and exercise power to review such parties' particular anticompetitive acts and disapprove those that fail to accord with state policy. This requirement is not satisfied here, since there has been no showing that the State Health Division, the State Board of Medical Examiners, or the state judiciary reviews -- or even could review -- private decisions regarding hospital privileges to determine whether such decisions comport with state regulatory policy and to correct abuses. The policy argument that effective peer review is essential to the provision of quality medical care, and that any threat of antitrust liability will prevent physicians from participating openly and actively in peer review proceedings, essentially challenges the wisdom of applying the antitrust

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laws to the sphere of medical care, and as such is properly directed to Congress. Pp. 99-106.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion for the Court, in which all other Members joined, except BLACKMUN, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

MARSHALL, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question presented in this case is whether the state action doctrine of Parker v. Brown, 317 U.S. 341 (1943), protects physicians in the State of Oregon from federal antitrust liability for their activities on hospital peer review committees.


Astoria, Oregon, where the events giving rise to this lawsuit took place, is a city of approximately 10,000 people

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located in the northwest corner of the State. The only hospital in Astoria is the Columbia Memorial Hospital (CMH). Astoria also is the home of a private group medical practice called the Astoria Clinic. At all times relevant to this case, a majority of the staff members at the CMH were employees or partners of the Astoria Clinic.

Petitioner Timothy Patrick is a general and vascular surgeon. He became an employee of the Astoria Clinic and a member of the CMH's medical staff in 1972. One year later, the partners of the Clinic, who are the respondents in this case,1 invited petitioner to become a partner of the Clinic. Petitioner declined this offer, and instead began an independent practice in competition with the surgical practice of the Clinic. Petitioner continued to serve on the medical staff of the CMH.

After petitioner established his independent practice, the physicians associated with the Astoria Clinic consistently refused [108 S.Ct. 1661] to have professional dealings with him. Petitioner received virtually no referrals from physicians at the Clinic, even though the Clinic at times did not have a general surgeon on its staff. Rather than refer surgery patients to petitioner, Clinic doctors referred them to surgeons located as far as 50 miles from Astoria. In addition, Clinic physicians showed reluctance to assist petitioner with his own patients. Clinic doctors often declined to give consultations, and Clinic surgeons refused to provide backup coverage for patients under petitioner's care. At the same time, Clinic physicians repeatedly criticized petitioner for failing to obtain outside consultations and adequate backup coverage.

In 1979, respondent Gary Boelling, a partner at the Clinic, complained to the executive committee of the CMH's medical staff about an incident in which petitioner had left a patient in the care of a recently hired associate, who then left the

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patient unattended. The executive committee decided to refer this complaint, along with information about other cases handled by petitioner, to the State Board of Medical Examiners (BOME). Respondent Franklin Russell, another partner at the Clinic, chaired the committee of the BOME that investigated these matters. The members of the BOME committee criticized petitioner's medical practices to the full BOME, which then issued a letter of reprimand that had been drafted by Russell. The BOME retracted this letter in its entirety after petitioner sought judicial review of the BOME proceedings.

Two years later, at the request of respondent Richard Harris, a Clinic surgeon, the executive committee of the CMH's medical staff initiated a review of petitioner's hospital privileges. The committee voted to recommend the termination of petitioner's privileges on the ground that petitioner's care of his patients was below the standards of the hospital. Petitioner demanded a hearing, as provided by hospital bylaws, and a five-member ad hoc committee, chaired by respondent Boelling, heard the charges and defense. Petitioner requested that the members of the committee testify as to their personal...

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