Hospital Medical Staff Lacks Capacity To Sue – Medical Staff Bylaws Are Not a Contract

The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently issued a decision that, in Minnesota, hospital medical staffs do not have capacity to sue as unincorporated associations.  In addition, the Court concluded that, at least in this case, medical staff bylaws do not constitute a contract between members of the medical staff and the hospital.

With respect to the issue of whether the medical staff bylaws create a contract between members of the medical staff and the hospital, the court focused on two points: (1) repeated reference in the medical staff bylaws to the right of the hospital board to approve, amend, and/or repeal the medical staff bylaws, and; (2) Minnesota rules that require hospitals to have medical staff bylaws approved by the governing body.  On this second point, the decision relies on a series of decisions from other jurisdiction holding medical staff bylaws not to create a contract for lack of consideration due to the existence of state laws requiring such bylaws.

The court relied on prior Minnesota court decisions for its conclusion that the medical staff could not sue as an unincorporated association.

These two issues are regularly litigated in courts around the country and there is hardly unanimity in the decisions.  This decision contains a very useful collection of cases going both ways on the issues and the legal theories relied on for the differing conclusions.  For questions concerning this case or related hospital medical staff issues please contact Greg Montgomery.

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