Scripps Clinic v. Superior Court, No. D040569.

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtO'Rourke
Citation134 Cal.Rptr.2d 101,108 Cal.App.4th 917
PartiesSCRIPPS CLINIC, Petitioner, v. The SUPERIOR COURT of San Diego County, Respondent; Patricia Thompson et al., Real Parties in Interest.
Decision Date17 April 2003
Docket NumberNo. D040569.
134 Cal.Rptr.2d 101
108 Cal.App.4th 917
SCRIPPS CLINIC, Petitioner,
v.
The SUPERIOR COURT of San Diego County, Respondent;
Patricia Thompson et al., Real Parties in Interest.
No. D040569.
Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 1.
April 17, 2003.
Rehearing Denied June 13, 2003.
Review Denied September 17, 2003.*

[134 Cal.Rptr.2d 105]

[108 Cal.App.4th 925]

Barton H. Hegeler, Eugene A. Patrizio, Storm P. Anderson, San Diego, for Petitioner.

R. Craig Clark, Clark & Associates, San Diego, Adriana Suarez, for Real party in interest.

Robert C. Fellmeth, Juilanne D'Angelo Fellmeth, San Diego, CA, for Center for Public Interest Law as Amicus Curiae for Real Party in Interest.

O'ROURKE, J.


Patricia Thompson (Patricia) and George Thompson (collectively the Thompsons) contracted for medical insurance with Health Net and chose Scripps Clinic (Scripps) as their medical group. After the Thompsons filed a complaint alleging medical malpractice against two physicians affiliated with Scripps, Scripps informed the Thompsons that it was exercising its right under its contract with Health Net to have Health Net transfer the Thompsons to another medical group. Health Net transferred the Thompsons to University of California at San Diego Health Network (UCSD). The Thompsons then filed this lawsuit, contending that Scripps's policy of terminating medical care for patients who file lawsuits against its physicians is illegal.

Scripps contends summary adjudication should have been granted as to: (1) the intentional interference with contract cause of action because there was no interference with the Thompsons' contract with Health Net and because Patricia's treating physicians were not third parties to that contract; (2) the negligent infliction of emotional distress and breach of fiduciary causes of action because Scripps breached no duty; (3) the Unruh Civil Rights Act (Civ.Code, §§ 51, 52) cause of action because litigants are not a protected class; (4) the Cartwright Act (Bus. & Prof.Code, § 16720) cause of action because there was no unlawful trust between Scripps and HealthNet; (5) the unfair competition (Bus. & Prof.Code, § 17200) and breach of public policy causes of action because a patient's right to sue does not supercede a physician's right to withdraw from a patient's care; and (6) punitive damages under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.13. We grant the petition as to the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the Cartwright Act, the unfair competition and the breach of public policy causes of action and as to punitive damages. We deny the petition as to the other causes of action.

108 Cal.App.4th 926
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Scripps is a group medical practice governed by a group of physicians who represent Scripps's physicians. The governing physicians established a policy to terminate further medical care for all patients and their families upon the receipt of an intent to sue letter. However, Scripps will not terminate care for a patient unless it determines that (1) another medical care system can duplicate the services Scripps has been providing and (2) the transfer would not jeopardize the patient's care, given the patient's current medical state.

Scripps initiated this policy because a lawsuit "irreparably compromises the physician-patient relationship, thereby potentially compromising the care rendered to the patient." Patient-litigants might "not be as forthcoming for fear that evidence— or information would be used in their lawsuit." Further, patient litigants' sense of what is important to communicate to other Scripps physicians could be colored by the lawsuit, making it difficult for the physician

134 Cal.Rptr.2d 106

to determine what is "true and unbiased." Patients may also believe that other Scripps physicians will not give them balanced care. For example, a patient may believe that a physician who does not timely return a telephone call is punishing the patient. Continuing the physician-patient relationship might also put a physician in the awkward position of testifying against a colleague.

On March 17, 1999, Patricia was in a serious accident. At the time, Scripps provided medical care to the Thompsons through their health insurance provider, Health Net. Alleging negligent treatment of Patricia's broken clavicle, the Thompsons filed a medical malpractice claim against Dr. Roger Thome and Dr. Michelle Carpenter, both of whom were affiliated with Scripps. At the time the malpractice action was filed, Patricia was no longer being treated by Drs. Thorne and Carpenter, but was being treated by other Scripps physicians: Dr. Michael Botte and Dr. Jan Froenke for the broken clavicle, and Dr. Kelly Harkey for endometriosis.

On June 14, 2000, Myrna Binford, a Scripps employee, sent the following letter to the Thompsons: "Scripps Clinic Medical Group has been notified of the legal action you have taken against the group. Because of this legal action, Scripps Clinic is requesting that Health Net immediately terminate you with Scripps Clinic and transfer your membership to another medical group. [¶] Please contact Health Net's Member Services at 800-641-7761 for assistance in selecting a new medical group in your area. Your transition to a new group should occur by 7/1/2000. In the interim, the Urgent Care Center at the Torrey Pines campus is open from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

108 Cal.App.4th 927

daily and the Urgent Care Center at Rancho Bernardo is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for your urgent/emergent needs. Your primary care physician can provide medically indicated prescription refills during this time. [¶] Your prompt attention and cooperation in this is greatly appreciated."

When Patricia received Bindford's letter, she immediately requested Health Net reassign the couple to a new medical group. Health Net transferred the Thompsons to UCSD, effective July 1, 2000. As the result of Scripps's actions, Patricia had to cancel a follow-up visit with Dr. Harkey that had been scheduled near the end of June even though Patricia was still suffering severe pain and bleeding. Before Patricia could be referred to a new gynecologist at UCSD, she had to schedule a visit with her new primary care physician and receive authorization. Patricia's care was also delayed until UCSD received her medical records from Scripps.

The Thompsons sued Scripps and Binford for damages arising from the termination of care. The third amended complaint, which is the operative complaint, includes causes of action for tortious interference with contractual relations, negligent infliction of emotional distress, violation of the Unruh Act; breach of fiduciary duty; unfair competition; breach of public policy; and violation of the Cartwright Act. In addition to other forms of relief, the Thompsons sought punitive damages.

On March 8, 2002, Scripps moved for summary judgment or, in the alternative, summary adjudication. On the same day, the Thompsons moved for summary adjudication of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cartwright Act, unfair competition and breach of public policy causes of action. On June 1, 2002, the court issued its tentative ruling in which it granted Scripps's motion for summary judgment as to Binford but did not grant summary adjudication of any causes of action as to Scripps. The court also denied the Thompsons' motion

134 Cal.Rptr.2d 107

for summary adjudication. After oral argument, the court adopted the tentative ruling as its final order.

DISCUSSION

We may review an order denying a motion for summary judgment or for summary adjudication by petition for a writ of mandate. (Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (l).) We may issue a writ of mandate to prevent trial of nonactionable claims after the trial court erroneously denies a motion for summary adjudication. (Travelers Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Superior Court (1998) 63 Cal.App.4th 1440, 1450, 75 Cal.Rptr.2d 54.) We review de novo the trial court's decision to grant summary adjudication and are not bound by the trial court's stated reasons or rationales. (Ibid.)

108 Cal.App.4th 928

"[F]rom commencement to conclusion, the party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of persuasion that there is no triable issue of material fact and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." (Aguilar v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 826, 850, 107 Cal.Rptr.2d 841, 24 P.3d 493.) Additionally, "the party moving for summary judgment bears an initial burden of production to make a prima facie showing of the nonexistence of any triable issue of material fact." (Ibid.) The movant meets its burden by presenting evidence in the form of "`affidavits, declarations, admissions, answers to interrogatories, depositions, and matters of which judicial notice' must or may `be taken.'" (Id. at p. 855, 107 Cal.Rptr.2d 841, 24 P.3d 493; Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (b).) If the movant meets its burden of production, the movant "causes a shift, and the opposing party is then subjected to a burden of production of [its] own to make a prima facie showing of the existence of a triable issue of material fact." (Aguilar v. Atlantic Richfield Co., supra, at p. 850, 107 Cal.Rptr.2d 841, 24 P.3d 493.)

I. Interference with Contractual Relations

We reject Scripps's contention the court should have granted summary adjudication of the intentional interference with contractual relations causes of action. In the third amended complaint, the Thompsons alleged Scripps disrupted their contractual relationship with Health Net and their contractual relationship with their treating physicians. The court declined to grant summary adjudication because Scripps's moving papers did not address the issue of interference with the Thompsons' relationship with their treating physicians. Although Scripps contended in its reply that it could not interfere in the Thompsons' relationship with their treating physicians because those physicians were employees of Scripps, the court found the evidence Scripps cited...

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161 practice notes
  • Aleksick v. 7-Eleven, Inc., No. D059236.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 8, 2012
    ...statutory or regulatory provisions.” 5 This court has followed the Gregory line of cases. ( Scripps Clinic v. Superior Court (2003) 108 Cal.App.4th 917, 940, 134 Cal.Rptr.2d 101; [205 Cal.App.4th 1193] Byars v. SCME Mortgage Bankers, Inc. (2003) 109 Cal.App.4th 1134, 1147, 135 Cal.Rptr.2d 7......
  • Lueras v. Bac Home Loans Servicing, LP, G046799
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • January 1, 2013
    ...action must be “tethered” to specific constitutional, statutory or regulatory provisions.’ ” ( Scripps Clinic v. Superior Court (2003) 108 Cal.App.4th 917, 940, 134 Cal.Rptr.2d 101.) A fraudulent practice under the UCL “require[s] only a showing that members of the public are likely to be d......
  • City of San Diego v. Haas, No. D058225.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • June 29, 2012
    ...does not apply here because the City has not taken “totally inconsistent positions.” ( Scripps Clinic v. Superior Court (2003) 108 Cal.App.4th 917, 943, 134 Cal.Rptr.2d 101;Jackson v. County of Los Angeles (1997) 60 Cal.App.4th 171, 182, 70 Cal.Rptr.2d 96 [positions “ ‘must be clearly incon......
  • Aleksick v. 7–Eleven, Inc., No. D059236.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 8, 2012
    ...statutory or regulatory provisions.” 5 This court has followed the Gregory line of cases. ( Scripps Clinic v. Superior Court (2003) 108 Cal.App.4th 917, 940, 134 Cal.Rptr.2d 101; [205 Cal.App.4th 1193]Byars v. SCME Mortgage Bankers, Inc. (2003) 109 Cal.App.4th 1134, 1147, 135 Cal.Rptr.2d 79......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
161 cases
  • Aleksick v. 7-Eleven, Inc., No. D059236.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 8, 2012
    ...statutory or regulatory provisions.” 5 This court has followed the Gregory line of cases. ( Scripps Clinic v. Superior Court (2003) 108 Cal.App.4th 917, 940, 134 Cal.Rptr.2d 101; [205 Cal.App.4th 1193] Byars v. SCME Mortgage Bankers, Inc. (2003) 109 Cal.App.4th 1134, 1147, 135 Cal.Rptr.2d 7......
  • Lueras v. Bac Home Loans Servicing, LP, G046799
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • January 1, 2013
    ...action must be “tethered” to specific constitutional, statutory or regulatory provisions.’ ” ( Scripps Clinic v. Superior Court (2003) 108 Cal.App.4th 917, 940, 134 Cal.Rptr.2d 101.) A fraudulent practice under the UCL “require[s] only a showing that members of the public are likely to be d......
  • City of San Diego v. Haas, No. D058225.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • June 29, 2012
    ...does not apply here because the City has not taken “totally inconsistent positions.” ( Scripps Clinic v. Superior Court (2003) 108 Cal.App.4th 917, 943, 134 Cal.Rptr.2d 101;Jackson v. County of Los Angeles (1997) 60 Cal.App.4th 171, 182, 70 Cal.Rptr.2d 96 [positions “ ‘must be clearly incon......
  • Aleksick v. 7–Eleven, Inc., No. D059236.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 8, 2012
    ...statutory or regulatory provisions.” 5 This court has followed the Gregory line of cases. ( Scripps Clinic v. Superior Court (2003) 108 Cal.App.4th 917, 940, 134 Cal.Rptr.2d 101; [205 Cal.App.4th 1193]Byars v. SCME Mortgage Bankers, Inc. (2003) 109 Cal.App.4th 1134, 1147, 135 Cal.Rptr.2d 79......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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