An appeal by the Defendant St. Paul’s Hospital (the “Hospital”) from dismissal of a motion to strike out a Statement of Claim issued by a surgeon (“Munro”) as disclosing no cause of action was dismissed where the Court held that it was not plain and obvious that Munro’s claim in contract would fail and the Hospital did not establish that the Court should decline jurisdiction to hear the tort claims

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Hospital Appeal Board – Statutory powers – Physicians and surgeons – Hospital privileges – Judicial review – Compliance with legislation – Evidence – Remedies – Alternative remedies

Munro v. St. Paul’s Hospital, [2009] B.C.J. No. 1475, British Columbia Court of Appeal, July 24, 2009, I.T. Donald, P.D. Lowry and D.F. Tysoe JJ.A.

Munro was a surgeon at the Hospital. The Hospital unilaterally eliminated his open heart surgery practice and privileges in 1999. The Appeal Board at the Hospital ordered Munro’s reinstatement. Munro alleged that, despite the order, the Hospital deliberately delayed his reinstatement until the mandatory retirement provisions took effect. Munro then brought an action for damages, alleging that his relationship with the Hospital was a contractual one. Munro also sought damages for wrongful interference with economic relations, claiming that the actions of the Hospital prohibited him from being able to earn income in his chosen field. The Hospital argued that the claim concerned Munro’s privileges and was within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Hospital Appeal Board. The Hospital applied to strike Munro’s Statement of Claim. The motion judge held that the scheme in question under the Hospital Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 200, and Regulations did not offer Munro any compensatory relief for the claim that his operating privileges at the Hospital were wrongfully taken away and then not restored when his internal appeal succeeded. The Hospital appealed this decision.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal finding that the nature of the legal relationship between the parties, whether purely statutory or contractual, was an issue to be decided. It was not plain and obvious that the claim in contract would fail. The Hospital failed to establish that the Trial Court had no jurisdiction or should decline jurisdiction to hear the tort claims. The Court rejected the argument by the Hospital that the whole of Munro’s redress was to be found within the statutory scheme outlining the relationship between a doctor and a hospital as defined by the Hospital Act, Regulations, and the Hospital’s bylaws. The Court found that nothing in the enactments gave the Hospital Appeal Board the power to award damages upon reversing a Hospital Board’s decision to withdraw privileges and noted that the Weber doctrine (Weber v. Ontario Hydro, [1995] 2 S.C.R. 929) operates on the premise of there being an adequate alternative remedy available in the administrative regime. That doctrine was not available in the case at bar as the Hospital Appeal Board did not possess the power to give Munro an effective remedy, including the authority to enforce its own order reinstating privileges.

The Court also rejected the argument from the Hospital that section 51 of the Evidence Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 124, operated to make privileged anything that went before a Hospital Committee. The Court held that the fact that certain information went before a Hospital Committee did not, in and of itself, make the information privileged. If such information was at large and existed independently of any Committee process, then it could be adduced as evidence in Court.

To stay current with the new case law and emerging legal issues in this area, subscribe here.