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Sithian v. Staten Island University Hospital

189 Misc. 2d 410 (2001)

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Sithian v. Staten Island University Hospital

New York Supreme Court

189 Misc. 2d 410 (2001)

Facts

Nedunchezian Sithian (plaintiff) was employed by Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH) as a vascular surgeon. In 1995, the chief of vascular surgery (chief) (defendant) suspended Sithian from performing complex surgeries after an independent report revealed that Sithian had quality-of-care issues that led to patients experiencing higher incidences of morbidity and mortality. After the suspension, Dr. Chang (defendant), a vascular surgeon who worked for a nearby hospital was tasked with conducting a peer review of Sithian’s cases. However, before the peer review was complete, Sithian requested a hearing in front of the SIUH Committee of the Medical Staff (committee) (defendant). The committee lifted the suspension but ruled that Sithian was required to consult with another vascular surgeon prior to any surgeries and could perform surgeries only in the presence of another vascular surgeon. Less than a week later, the vascular surgeon tasked with the peer review recommended that Sithian not perform any complex vascular procedures because his treatment fell below accepted standards. The committee met again and voted to reinstate Sithian’s suspension until he completed a retraining course and recommended the finding to the board of trustees, which had the authority to uphold the suspension. Before the board of trustees reached a decision, Sithian filed suit against the chief, Chang, and the committee on the grounds of libel, slander, and economic interference. The trial court found that the chief, Chang, and the committee were immune from liability under the Health Care Quality Improvement Act (HCQIA) and other state laws. Sithian appealed. While the appeal was pending, the defendants motioned to be awarded costs and attorney’s fees. The motion was denied because of the pending appeal. After the court of appeals affirmed the trial court decision, the motion for attorney’s fees was renewed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Maltese, J.)

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