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Thu., Oct. 22, 2009, 3:23 p.m.

Idaho high court vacates ruling against St. Al’s in big hospital case

The Idaho Supreme Court has tossed a lawsuit ruling that resulted in one of the largest jury awards in Idaho history, the AP reports. The court's ruling today essentially sent a case between MRI Associates and Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center back for a new trial; a jury had initially awarded MRI Associates more than $63 million in damages, though a judge later lowered that to about $36 million. Click below to read the full story from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

Idaho high court vacates ruling against St. Al's
By REBECCA BOONE, Associated Press Writer

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Supreme Court on Thursday vacated a ruling in a lawsuit that resulted in one of the largest jury verdicts in Idaho history, essentially sending the case between MRI Associates and Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center back for a new trial.

The Idaho Supreme Court said that Saint Alphonsus did not violate an express provision of its partnership agreement with MRI Associates when it decided to participate in a competing medical imaging service.

A jury awarded MRI Associates more than $63 million in damages — one of the largest awards in Idaho history. A judge later lowered the damages to just over $36 million, an amount still far larger than seen in other state cases.

MRI Associates and Saint Alphonsus became partners in 1985 in an effort to make magnetic resonance imaging and other diagnostic tests more accessible to the hospital, with the partnership slated to last at least until 2015. For years, doctors with privileges at Saint Alphonsus used the MRI Associates-run MRI Center of Idaho to make scans and radiologists from the Saint Alphonsus Radiology Group to read them.

But in 1998, the radiologists decided to build their own outpatient medical imaging facility under the name Intermountain Medical Imaging and asked Saint Alphonsus to become involved in the project. At one point, all the groups talked about joining, but those negotiations were unsuccessful and in 2004 the hospital told MRI Associates it was leaving the partnership.

Saint Alphonsus sued MRI Associates for its portion of the ownership in MRI Associates. MRI Associates countersued, contending the hospital breached the terms of the partnership agreement when it became a competitor.

The complicated lawsuit included several fiduciary and contractual claims, and most of them went to trial.

Before the trial began, 4th District Judge Michael McLaughlin ruled on one claim, agreeing with MRI Associates that Saint Alphonsus had violated an express provision of the partnership agreement. That ruling was told to the jury and used as part of MRI Associates' case during the trial.

Both sides appealed to the state's highest court.

Chief Justice Daniel Eismann, writing for the unanimous court, said McLaughlin was wrong when he found that Saint Alphonsus had violated an express provision in the partnership agreement — and that, in turn unduly prejudiced the jury when it considered the other claims.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.




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