Commonwealth Health's physician group can't enforce noncompete law on former surgeon

A judge has ruled that Commonwealth Health's physician group, Commonwealth Physician Network, cannot prevent its former surgeon from working locally for Geisinger, The Times-Tribune reported Aug 21. 

Vascular surgeon John Kutz, MD, began practicing at Geisinger Community Medical Center in Scranton, Pa., in May after Commonwealth Physician Network did not renew his contract. 

Commonwealth Physician Network moved to enforce a noncompete clause prohibiting Dr. Kutz from practicing within 20 miles for two years. In court, the physician group argued that Dr. Kutz breached the covenant in his employment agreement.

The judge ruled against Commonwealth Physician Network and denied its request for an injunction and declaratory relief. He also stated that not allowing Dr. Kutz to practice in the area would hinder access to vascular care in the region due to the shortage of vascular surgeons.

"The judge ruled that a healthcare provider cannot enforce a restrictive covenant exclusively for financial gain," Peter Paul Olszewski Jr., the lead attorney representing Dr. Kutz, told The Times-Tribune. "That's precedent setting and that is a tremendous help for all patients ... because it ensures continuity of care."

"We believe the facts in this case support the enforcement of the non-compete," Commonwealth said in a statement. "We strongly disagree with the ruling and are evaluating our options for an appeal."

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