Medical community hit with anti-trust lawsuit
A federal anti-trust lawsuit has been filed against a local hospital administrator, two local medical firms and a list of well-known local orthopedic specialists.
The suit, which alleges that a group of bone and joint specialists is actively fighting to keep competing physicians out of the Roaring Fork Valley, also accuses those same doctors of violating the civil rights of Dr. Thomas P. Moore.
The latest suit, filed on Sept. 27 in U.S. District Court in Denver, names Aspen Valley Hospital administrator Randy Middlebrook, the Orthopedic Associates of Aspen and Glenwood Springs, Aspen Emergency Medicine P.C. and nine local doctors as defendants.
The doctors are Orthopedic Associates owners John Freeman, Rob Hunter, Tom Pevney and Mark Purnell; Aspen Emergency Medicine’s John Glismann, Stephen Ayers and Chris Martinez; and family practice physicians David Borchers and Glenn Kotz.
Moore is an orthopedic specialist in Basalt who was a staff doctor at AVH from late 1998 until this fall, and who at one time was a “fellow” with Orthopedic Associates. He claims in his lawsuit that several of the defendants illegally suspended his membership on the hospital’s medical staff.
The suspension came, Moore said, after he failed to attend a meeting of the Medical Executive Committee, whose members included Ayers, Borchers, Kotz, Martinez and Pevney. Moore alleges that Middlebrook, who Moore claims has no formal standing on the committee, contributed “substantial influence and participation” in the decision to suspend Moore’s membership.
Moore maintains he received inadequate notice of the meeting and that he was never notified of the pending suspension, a violation of his “due process” rights under the Fifth and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution. He also maintains that he never acted in any way that, under the hospital’s bylaws governing physicians’ behavior or activities, would justify this kind of suspension.
In their actions, the suit maintains, the defendants “violated Dr. Moore’s rights under Section 1 of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871” and that Moore has “suffered, and will suffer, actual damages for lost income, loss of standing in the medical community, loss of standing in the Aspen community, humiliation and distress.”
In addition, the suit maintains that the violation of Moore’s civil rights “was done in furtherance of a conspiracy between the Defendants to restrain trade in and to monopolize the market for emergency orthopedic services in the Aspen area,” which would be a violation of federal anti-trust laws.
The suit lays out a string of actions that began in 1997, on the part of individual doctors and groupings of the defendants, that amounted to alleged attempts to prevent him from starting a practice and competing against the Orthopedic Associates.
Among other things, the suit claims that “the Defendants, through Middlebrook and Martinez, threatened Dr. Moore with loss of his Hospital Staff membership (by a threatened misuse of the `disruptive physician’ procedure of the Hospital Bylaws), on account of Dr. Moore’s criticism and speaking out against improper conduct by Middlebrook and the other defendants.”
The lawsuit also claims that the defendants “used their control of the Hospital bylaw process” to close the hospital to any other orthopedic specialists and thus keep Moore from signing up partners in competition with Orthopedic Associates.
Additionally, the suit claims that through Dr. Hunter the defendants tried to pressure Moore to join them in their alleged efforts to freeze out two other orthopedic specialists, Dr. Gary Brazina and Dr. Steven Nadler.
Moore also maintains that the defendants conspired to prevent him from practicing at the Mid-Valley Medical Center, a subsidiary facility of AVH in the Basalt area.
Brazina and Nadler, after trying unsuccessfully to start up a joint practice in Aspen, filed a similar lawsuit last year against the hospital, Orthopedic Associates, Aspen Emergency Medicine and eight doctors. Brazina, who has moved to Southern California, said that the suit is “proceeding apace … in geologic time, not human time.”
Middlebrook was out of town and could not be reached for comment on the latest lawsuit.
Doctors for Orthopedic Associates could not be reached for comment, but the firm’s CEO, George Trantow, said that “Orthopedic Associates denies any wrongdoing as alleged in the complaint. We are totally confident we will be cleared of all allegations.” He declined to comment on any of the specific allegations in the suit.
The emergency medicine doctors also could not be reached, nor could doctors Borchers and Kotz.
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.