Beware of Ambiguous Provisions in Physician Employment Agreements

Written by on March 2, 2012 in Law & Finance - No comments

By Ralph Levy, Jr.

Great care should be taken in drafting employment agreements with physicians. Despite much judicial focus on covenants not to compete and non-solicitation provisions, as illustrated by a recent case, this word of caution should apply equally to all elements of employment agreements.

An Oklahoma federal judge was asked to interpret a physician employment agreement in which an issue arose in regards to the location where the doctor was to perform their services. The agreement in question provided that the physician was required to work “primarily” for a hospital-employer at a specific hospital and at another hospital “from time to time.”

As a result of this ambiguity, the court refused to find that as a matter of law, the hospital-employer had breached the terms of the agreement when it had assigned the physician to work at the alternative location specified in the physician’s employment agreement. Ultimately, the court concluded that the jury who hears the trial of the lawsuit – not the trial judge of the case – must interpret the meaning of the clause in question.

Reprinted with permission from Dickinson Wright PLLC

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