Indiana physician's lawsuit challenges state's noncompete law

Pediatric intensivist David Lankford, MD, is suing his former employer, Fort Wayne, Ind.-based Lutheran Hospital, to get out of a noncompete clause in his contract, local PBS affiliate WFYI reported Nov. 2. 

Dr. Lankford's contract prohibits him from working within 30 miles of the hospital for a year after ending employment, according to the report. Dr. Lankford alleges it wasn't an issue until the hospital changed his job and breached his contract. 

After the hospital dismissed other physicians on his team, Dr. Lankford was allegedly left with an increased workload. He handled 282 visits in three months after the change, more than he saw in the 12 months before, according to court documents cited by the publication. The shift drove him to quit. 

Earlier this year, Indiana passed a noncompete ban for primary care physicians, but it excluded specialty physicians. 

According to WFYI, however, specialty physicians were given three outs — one being if they are let go by the employer "without cause" or quit "for cause," their noncompete can be nullified. Dr. Lankford and his legal team believe his reason for quitting will be cause enough to convince a judge. 

Lutheran is countersuing Dr. Lankford because he has begun to work at another competing hospital in Fort Wayne. Lutheran argues it has suffered a loss of business and incurred costs from hiring temporary physicians. 

Lutheran has not responded to WYFI's requests for comment and argues in court filings that the pediatric care changes never violated Dr. Lankford's contract, according to the publication.

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