Noozhawk – Doctor Loses Antitrust Case Against Cottage, Surgeons

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli Published on 04.09.2012

Jury sides with defendants, deciding there was no conspiracy or basis for damages

A jury denied a spinal surgeon’s antitrust claim against Cottage Health System and a group of local neurosurgeons on Friday, ending a seven-week civil trial in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.

Dr. Alan Moelleken claimed that Cottage and the doctors who formed Neurosurgical Associates conspired to exclude him from an on-call list for emergency room and trauma center patients, therefore stifling competition and causing him about $5 million in damages.

Defense attorneys Jeffery LeVee and Barry Cappello, representing Cottage and the surgeons, respectively, argued there was no influence from the hospital’s administration or neurosurgeons on the Medical Executive Committee task force that created the application process for on-call lists.

The jury agreed with the defendants and determined there was no conspiracy and that Dr. Moelleken deserved no damages.

“We are very appreciative of the hard work of the jury and grateful for the outcome,” Cottage spokeswoman Janet O’Neill told Noozhawk on Monday. “We saw this outcome as a strong confirmation of our decision-making process with medical staff.”

The surgeon’s attorney, David Kesselman, told local media they may consider appealing the case.

Dr. Moelleken alleged the neurosurgeons on the on-call list — Drs. Thomas Jones, Scott Conner, Richard Chung and newest member Alois Zauner — had influenced Cottage in keeping him off the list by threatening to pull their own services if an orthopedic surgeon such as himself was included. He had tried unsuccessfully to have Cottage create a spine-only call list.

Defense attorneys argued that Dr. Moelleken had proved unreliable after his unsuccessful stint on the general orthopedic on-call list about 10 years ago and pointed out his financial successes despite the access to Cottage’s emergency patients. Dr. Moelleken owns six patient-care centers in California, including the local Spine & Orthopedics Center and Santa Barbara Family Practice, and the Carrillo Surgery Center at 401 E. Carrillo St.

Kesselman and Cappello did not return calls seeking comment.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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