Anna Reeves Olson, Park Street Law Offices Casper, Wyoming.
Ronald E. Stevens, M.D., et al. v. Anesthesiology Consultants of Cheyenne, LLC, et al.
2018 WY 45
May 1, 2018
In 1999, a group of anesthesiologists in Cheyenne formed Anesthesiology Consultants of Cheyenne, LLC (“ACC”). The members of ACC provided anesthesiology services at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center (“CRMC”) and High Plains Surgery Center. ACC also provided services to a group of Cheyenne ophthalmologists, who performed surgery on their patients at either CRMC or High Plains Surgery Center. Dr. Ronald Stevens joined ACC in 2001 and, shortly thereafter, he met Cassandra Rivers and they were married. Rivers was a certified registered nurse anesthetist (“CRNA”). Rivers often performed work for ACC at CRMC, but she never had a written contract with ACC.
In 2007, several of Cheyenne’s ophthalmologists decided to open their own eye surgery center. Dr. Stevens, Rivers, and other members of ACC assisted the eye surgeons in setting up their surgery center. When the Eye Center opened, Dr. Stevens suggested to the members of ACC that Rivers provide services at the Eye Center when needed and ACC would bill for her work there, pay her an hourly rate, and keep the rest of the income. ACC accepted this arrangement, and Rivers started providing services at the Eye Center. Rivers was scheduled to be at the Eye Center three days a week and at the hospital the other two days. Tere was no written agreement neither between ACC and the Eye Center nor between ACC and Rivers. However, for the next several years, ACC billed for Rivers’s services at the Eye Center, paid her an hourly rate, and kept the rest of the income. On average, ACC kept slightly more than half of the income that was generated at the Eye Center. ACC did not give Rivers any benefits, other than providing billing services. In May 2009, Rivers became an employee of Dr. Stevens’ company, High Plains Anesthesia. When this change occurred, ACC paid Rivers’s hourly wage to High Plains Anesthesia instead of to Rivers and High Plains Anesthesia paid Rivers an hourly rate, but kept the rest of the income for itself.
As a part of Dr. Stevens’ practice, he saw patients suffering from chronic pain. These patients were usually on Medicare or were on disability, which meant that pain management cases were not very profitable for ACC and did not generate as much income as other types of procedures. Accordingly, the members of ACC told Dr. Stevens to “carve out” his pain practice and bill for it outside of the group. Dr. Stevens told the group that he did not like the idea of a carve out, but he later wrote an email to two of the managing members of the group and said that if the group wanted the pain practice to be carved out, that he would also carve out work done by his other employees. The group said that was okay.
Ten when Dr. Stevens carved out the pain practice, he also carved out the work that Rivers was doing and ACC stopped receiving income from the Eye Center. When ACC learned that Rivers was no longer sending her money to ACC, a member of ACC approached Dr. Stevens to ask why. In response, Dr. Stevens reminded the member of the email that he sent which said that he was going to carve out the work of his other employees along with his pain practice. ACC was angry at this and voted Dr. Stevens out of the group. Afterwards, ACC made little to no effort to get the work back from the Eye Center.
ACC also sued Dr. Stevens and the district court granted summary judgment to ACC finding that Dr. Stevens had breached his fiduciary duties to ACC by appropriating the Eye Center work for himself and competing with ACC.
On appeal, the Supreme...