On April 27, 2018, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey held that the Medical Executive Committee (“MEC”) of a hospital, which is comprised of doctors that decide who is given privileges within the hospital, can sue and be sued. Nahas v. Shore Med. Ctr., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70785.
Dr. Federick Nahas, an endovascular surgeon, sued the Shore Memorial Hospital’s MEC, as the committee refused to reinstate his full privileges in the hospital following a criminal conviction.
In 2002, Dr. Nahas had plead guilty in federal court to “preventing, obstructing, misleading and delaying the communication of information and records relating to a health care investigation.” Subsequently, the MEC at Shore Memorial suspended his medical staff membership and clinical privileges, and the State Board of Medical Examiners suspended his medical license for nine months.
Following several appeals by Dr. Nahas to the MEC to have his clinical privileges reinstated in full, Dr. Nahas proceeded to sue Shore Memorial’s MEC. The MEC argued it could not be sued because it was not an entity subject to the litigation. However, U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler agreed with Dr. Nahas.
The court found that the MEC, although not registered with any state or governmental agency as a separate or distinct legal entity and does not maintain its own insurance, is still a type of unincorporated association. The court took into consideration that the MEC takes minutes and “appears to present itself as an entity distinct from the Medical staff” as suggestive of its status as an entity. Further, New Jersey permits for unincorporated organizations or associations to sue or be sued if they consist of more than seven persons. The court expressed no opinion on what claims may be brought against the MEC, but held that it does have the capacity to sue or be sued.