The New Jersey Supreme Court has reversed an Appellate Division decision and vacated a $24 million judgment against The Valley Hospital.

“Today, the Supreme Court of New Jersey vacated a $24 million judgment against and affirmed long-standing jurisprudence that hospital bylaws do not constitute a contract. The court held that multiple errors during trial required reversal of the judgment,” says Christopher Porrino, counsel for The Valley Hospital and Chair of Lowenstein Sandler’s Litigation Department.

Porrino adds: “The Court’s decision is an important win for The Valley Hospital, health care systems across New Jersey and the country, as it underscores the deference to be afforded hospitals in making policy decisions that further patient care and public health objectives. The decision also reaffirmed that legal advice provided by in house counsel is confidential and privileged and reinforced the core principle that counsel may not “misstate evidence or distort the factual picture” in summation at trial.

The plaintiffs, 11 neurosurgeons and their practice group, New Jersey Brain and Spine Center, provided on-call coverage in Valley Hospital’s emergency department. They filed a suit alleging multiple contract and tort claims, including breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and tortious interference with prospective economic advantage. A jury found in favor of the plaintiffs on the implied-covenant claim only, and the Appellate Division later affirmed the award of $24.3 million.

In November, Porrino argued before the state’s highest court that the contract claims should have been dismissed because “courts just aren’t equipped to weigh the intrinsic complexities that hospitals confront every day in advancing patient care.” In addition, he argued that “deceptive and misleading comments made by plaintiffs’ counsel in summation require[d] reversal” and that the trial court had improperly allowed the plaintiffs to exploit privileged emails.

Law360, ROI-NJ, NJBIZ, and Daily Record (subscription required to access article) reported on the decision. The case was also highlighted in Law360’s Legal Lions Of The Week Roundup. 

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