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BETTYE WICKER, E. E. BRAMLITT, BRUCE BULLWINKEL, NEW ALBANY SURGICAL GROUP, P. A. v. UNION COUNTY GENERAL HOSPITAL

NOVEMBER 15, 1989

BETTYE WICKER, E. E. BRAMLITT, BRUCE BULLWINKEL, NEW ALBANY SURGICAL GROUP, P. A.
v.
UNION COUNTY GENERAL HOSPITAL



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, PRATHER and ANDERSON

ROY NOBLE LEE, CHIEF JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

On February 27, 1986, Union County General Hospital filed suit in the Chancery Court of Union County against Bettye Wicker (Wicker), a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), Drs. E. E. Bramlitt, Bruce Bullwinkel, and the New Albany Surgical Group, P.A., seeking to determine whether Wicker would practice in the hospital without a contract or agreement with the hospital and, if the court held that she could practice without a contract, asking that the chancellor declare the hospital's liabilities for her acts. The lower court declared that Union County General Hospital has the right to control the services of

anesthesia within the hospital and that Wicker has no right to practice therein without being an employee of, or under contract to, the hospital. The lower court further held that the hospital breached its contract for one month with Wicker and awarded her damages for that breach. Wicker has appealed from the judgment and the hospital has cross-appealed from the award of damages. Wicker assigns the following errors in the trial below:

 I.

 THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT UCGH IS EXEMPTED FROM STATE MONOPOLY OR ANTI-TRUST LAWS AND THAT WICKER HAS NO STAFF PRIVILEGES AND THAT WICKER HAS NO RIGHT TO PRACTICE AT UCGH WITHOUT BEING AN EMPLOYEE OR UNDER CONTRACT, AND DENYING WICKER FURTHER RELIEF.

 II.

 THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT WICKER WAS ENTITLED TO ONLY $10,392.00 IN DAMAGES FOR BREACH OF CONTRACT.

 III.

 THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT UCGH DID NOT INTERFERE WITH WICKER'S CONTRACTUAL RELATIONSHIPS.

 IV.

 THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FAILING TO ALLOW WICKER TO SUBMIT AN OFFER OF PROOF.

 V.

 THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ADOPTING ALMOST VERBATIM THE POST-TRIAL PROPOSED FINDINGS OF FACT SUBMITTED BY COUNSEL FOR UCGH.

 VI.

 THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT IT HAD JURISDICTION OVER THE SUBJECT MATTER.

 Facts

 Union County General Hospital (Hospital) is county owned and is governed by a seven-member board of trustees. It is the only hospital in Union County. The Hospital in 1986 was licensed for 125 beds, but additional construction, which was to be completed in 1986, would allow space for an additional 37

 beds, a total capacity of 157 beds. Wicker is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). She began working at the Hospital when it opened in 1966. For many years she was the principal provider of anesthesia services at the Hospital. All parties agree that Wicker is a very well qualified CRNA and has given long and dedicated service to the Hospital.

 Beginning April 1, 1971, through September 30, 1982, Wicker operated as an independent contractor, providing anesthesia services to patients at the Hospital as requested by surgeons and obstetricians. During this time, she functioned under a series of written and verbal agreements. On September 30, 1982, the Hospital and Wicker entered into a written contract. Among other things, the agreement provided that the Hospital would bill patients for supplies, use of facilities, equipment, as well as for her professional services. The Hospital would then remit to Wicker sixty percent (60%) of the amount the Hospital charged for her professional services. Wicker was to have liability insurance for not less than one million dollars. Under no circumstances would the Hospital pay Wicker less ...


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