Bolt v. Halifax Hosp. Medical Center, 91-3562

Decision Date07 January 1993
Docket NumberNo. 91-3562,91-3562
Citation980 F.2d 1381
Parties, 1993-1 Trade Cases P 70,092 Richard A. BOLT; Richard A. Bolt, M.D., P.A., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. HALIFAX HOSPITAL MEDICAL CENTER, Defendant-Appellant, Daytona Community Hospital; Ormond Beach Memorial Hospital; Humana, Inc.; Volusia County Medical Society, Inc.; Shed Roberson, M.D.; Alvin Smith, M.D.; Richard Boye, M.D.; Willis Stose, M.D.; Ralph Marino, M.D.; C.R. DeArmas, Jr., M.D.; Thurman Gillespy, Jr., M.D., Defendants.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit

Donald E. Christopher, Litchford, Christopher & Milprath, Orlando, Fla., for plaintiffs-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

Before COX, Circuit Judge, CLARK and WELLFORD *, Senior Circuit Judges.

COX, Circuit Judge:

Halifax Hospital Medical Center (HHMC) appeals the district court's denial of its motion for summary judgment, arguing that it is immune to antitrust liability under the state-action immunity doctrine. For the reasons stated below, we vacate and remand.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY 1

In 1979, Dr. Richard A. Bolt applied for, and was granted, staff privileges at three Daytona Beach, Florida area hospitals. Two of the hospitals, Daytona Community Hospital and Ormond Beach Memorial Hospital, are private. The third, HHMC, is a hospital created and funded by a special taxing district of the State of Florida. See 1979 Fla.Laws 577. Bolt was granted temporary or probationary staff privileges for two years at each hospital. In 1981, he applied for reappointment at all three hospitals. The peer review committee at each hospital considered Bolt's application, and each committee recommended that his application be denied based upon his unprofessional conduct during the previous two-year appointment. Bolt was denied reappointment by each hospital.

Following the hospitals' decisions, Bolt filed a complaint in federal court asserting federal antitrust claims, federal constitutional claims, federal contract claims, and several pendent state law claims. With respect to his antitrust claims, Bolt alleged that the defendants had conspired to deny his reappointment in restraint of trade and to monopolize the practice of medicine and surgery, in violation of sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1 and 2. Specifically, Bolt alleged the existence of three different conspiracies: (1) between the Daytona Community Hospital and the members of its medical staff serving on the hospital's peer review committee; (2) between HHMC and the members of its medical staff taking part in the peer review decision there; and (3) among HHMC, Daytona Community Hospital, Ormond Beach Memorial Hospital, the members of their medical staffs, and the Volusia County Medical Society. 2

At trial, following the presentation of the Plaintiff's case, the district court granted the Defendants' motions for directed verdict on the Sherman Act claims and dismissed without prejudice the pendent state law claims. Bolt v. Halifax Hosp. Medical Center, No. 82-122-ORL-CIV-18 (M.D.Fla. Mar. 21, 1984). The district court held that Bolt failed to introduce evidence of an unlawful contract, combination, or conspiracy under the Sherman Act. Bolt appealed, contending that the district court had erred in excluding certain expert witness testimony. In our first panel opinion in this case, we held that the hospitals and their medical staffs were private parties acting pursuant to a clearly articulated state policy and were being actively supervised by the State. Thus, we held, they were exempt from federal antitrust liability under the state-action immunity doctrine first articulated in Parker v. Brown, 317 U.S. 341, 63 S.Ct. 307, 87 L.Ed. 315 (1943), as interpreted in Patrick v. Burget, 486 U.S. 94, 108 S.Ct. 1658, 100 L.Ed.2d 83 (1988). See Bolt v. Halifax Hosp. Medical Center, 851 F.2d 1273, 1284 (11th Cir.1988) (Bolt I ). Specifically, we found that Florida's regulatory scheme provides for judicial review of hospital peer review board decisions if those decisions are sufficiently probing to constitute "active state supervision" under Parker and Patrick. See Bolt I, 851 F.2d at 1281-84. This earlier decision, however, was vacated and the case was heard en banc. Bolt v. Halifax Hosp. Medical Center, 861 F.2d 1233 (11th Cir.1988). During en banc oral argument, the hospitals and their medical staffs formally withdrew their claim of immunity under the Parker state-action doctrine. Accordingly, the en banc court did not decide the immunity question and remanded to the panel with an instruction to reconsider the case in light of the hospital's and medical staff's waiver of state-action immunity. Bolt v. Halifax Hosp. Medical Center, 874 F.2d 755 (11th Cir.1989) (en banc) (Bolt II ).

Upon remand to the panel, HHMC argued that it was a state agency under Parker and thus immune from antitrust In April 1991, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in City of Columbia v. Omni Outdoor Advertising, Inc., --- U.S. ----, 111 S.Ct. 1344, 113 L.Ed.2d 382 (1991). In that case, the Court held that there was no conspiracy exception to the state-action immunity doctrine. In light of City of Columbia, HHMC filed a motion for summary judgment. The district court denied HHMC's motion, finding that Bolt III did not rely on a conspiracy exception to deny HHMC state-action immunity, but instead relied on a straightforward application of Town of Hallie for its decision. HHMC appeals the district court's order. For the following reasons we vacate and remand.

                liability, or alternatively, that it was a municipality immune from antitrust liability under the Supreme Court's opinion in Town of Hallie v. City of Eau Claire, 471 U.S. 34, 105 S.Ct. 1713, 85 L.Ed.2d 24 (1985).   See Bolt v. Halifax Hosp. Medical Center, 891 F.2d 810 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 495 U.S. 924, 110 S.Ct. 1960, 109 L.Ed.2d 322 (1990).  (Bolt III ). 3  In Bolt III, this court rejected HHMC's "state agency" argument holding that HHMC was not a state agency acting as a sovereign.  Bolt III, 891 F.2d at 823-24.   We did find, however, that the powers granted by the Florida legislature to HHMC in its enabling legislation were virtually identical to those of a municipality in many important respects.   Thus, we held that HHMC should be treated as a municipality and its actions tested under Town of Hallie.  Id. at 824-25.   Nevertheless, we concluded that HHMC was not immune to antitrust liability because Bolt had alleged that HHMC conspired with the members of its peer review board to deny him staff privileges.  Id
                
ISSUE ON APPEAL

Whether the district court erred in denying HHMC's motion for summary judgment in light of the Supreme Court's decision in City of Columbia v. Omni Outdoor Advertising, Inc., --- U.S. ----, 111 S.Ct. 1344, 113 L.Ed.2d 382 (1991).

CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES

Bolt contends that the law-of-the-case doctrine precludes any further review of this issue because a panel of this court in Bolt III has already resolved this issue in his favor. Bolt argues that this court's decision in Bolt III was based not on a conspiracy exception to the state-action doctrine, but on a straightforward application of the Supreme Court's analysis in Town of Hallie. Therefore, the Supreme Court's recent pronouncement in City of Columbia did not overrule Bolt III, and summary judgment in favor of HHMC is not warranted.

HHMC argues that the Supreme Court's decision in City of Columbia entitles it to summary judgment in this case. It argues that the decision in Bolt III is grounded on the finding that the hospital and its medical staff conspired to deny Bolt staff privileges upon a bad-faith pretext. Under City of Columbia, HHMC contends, the subjective motives of its board in denying Bolt's application are irrelevant. Thus, City of Columbia implicitly overruled Bolt III and entitles HHMC to summary judgment on the basis of state-action immunity.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Because the question of immunity is strictly one of law, this court must make a de novo determination of whether the district court erred in denying summary judgment. Griesel v. Hamlin, 963 F.2d 338, 341 (11th Cir.1992); Morrison v. Washington County, Ala., 700 F.2d 678, 682 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 864, 104 S.Ct. 195, 78 L.Ed.2d 171 (1983). Summary judgment will be granted when the moving party succeeds in showing that

there exists no genuine issue of material fact when all the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Sweat v. Miller Brewing Co., 708 F.2d 655, 656 (11th Cir.1983).

DISCUSSION
A. The State-Action Immunity Doctrine

The state-action immunity doctrine is rooted in the Supreme Court's decision in Parker v. Brown, 317 U.S. 341, 63 S.Ct. 307, 87 L.Ed. 315 (1943). In Parker, the Supreme Court considered whether the Sherman Act prohibits anticompetitive conduct by a state. The petitioner sought to enjoin the California Director of Agriculture from enforcing a program adopted pursuant to the California Agricultural Prorate Act, which restricted the marketing of privately produced raisins. The statute was intended to restrict competition among agricultural producers in the state in order to stabilize prices and prevent economic waste. Relying on the principles of federalism and state sovereignty, the Court refused to find that the Sherman Act was "intended to restrain state action or official action directed by a state." 317 U.S. at 351, 63 S.Ct. at 313. Rather, the Court held, "its purpose was to suppress combinations to restrain competition and attempts to monopolize...

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