Thursday, February 02, 2006

S.C. Supreme Court reverses conspiracy verdict against Hospital

In McMillan v. Oconee Memorial Hospital, the Hospital awarded an exclusive anesthesiology contract to a competitor of McMillan. McMillan then brought claims for conspiracy and other causes of action. The jury returned a verdict in favor of McMillan for $1,275,000 against the Hospital only on the conspiracy claim. As a result, McMillan made a motion to conform the pleadings to the evidence to allege civil conspiracy against the Hospital. The Hospital filed post trial motions including a motion to reduce the verdict and a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The trial court granted the motion to reduce the verdict and the verdict was reduced to $300,000 pursuant to the charitable immunity statute.

On review, the Supreme Court held that the trial court should have granted the Hospital's motion for a JNOV. According to the Court, a civil conspiracy cannot exist when the alleged acts arise in the context of a principal-agent relationship because by virtue of the relationship such acts do not involve separate entities. Agents for a corporation acting in the scope of their duties cannot conspire with the corporation absent the guilty knowledge of a third party. Because the jury did not find that the Hospital conspired with any entity other than itself, the verdict was set aside.

No comments: