Manatt Secures Appellate Victory for Dignity Health in Anti-SLAPP Motion

Manatt secured an important victory for its client Dignity Health, a California-based nonprofit hospital system, on October 18, when the California Court of Appeal affirmed dismissal of a physician’s damages complaint against Dignity under the anti-SLAPP statute.

A former member of the medical staff at a Dignity Health hospital alleged the hospital retaliated against him by filing a report with the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), which was required by the Health Care Quality Improvement Act (HCQIA), when he resigned his hospital privileges amid an ongoing investigation into his professional conduct. The physician contended that he had not been under investigation when he resigned his privileges and that the NPDB report saying otherwise was false.

Dignity Health argued, and the court agreed, that under HCQIA, Dignity Health was immune from any liability for filing the NPDB report unless it had knowledge that the report was false. The court agreed that the report was true because the doctor was under investigation when he resigned, according to the definition of “investigation” in the NPDB Guidebook, published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to guide hospitals in applying the reporting requirements.

The case raised significant questions regarding the scope of the NPDB reporting requirements, which Congress instituted to make sure that information about doctors with quality-of-care problems is reported and shared among hospitals to prevent such doctors from moving from hospital to hospital.

The October 18 decision breaks new ground as the first California state case to apply HCQIA immunity and the NPDB Guidebook in a manner favorable to hospitals. It is also the first California decision to address what an “investigation” is for the purposes of HCQIA’s reporting and immunity requirements.

Manatt’s litigation team included Partners Barry Landsberg and Joanna McCallum and Counsel Doreen Shenfeld.

Read the court’s ruling here.

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