BENTON - A Scott County jury returned a mixed verdict in an ongoing lawsuit between four doctors and a Sikeston clinic.
After four days of hearing evidence, the jury ruled against doctors Kevin P. Rankin and Fred K. Uthoff and in favor of Ferguson Medical Group in a case alleging they failed to honor components of their partner agreements. However, in the same case, the jury found doctors Loring C. Helfrich and Fred Thornton, had not violated the agreement.
According to the verdict returned to the court, nine jurors agreed Rankin had breached the covenant. They assessed damages for Ferguson in the amount of $197,174.29.
Also nine of the 12 jurors agreed Uthoff had violated his restrictive covenant, assessing damages at $202,700.43 for FMG.
In the cases of Helfrich and Thornton, 11 of the 12 jurors agreed the doctors were not in violation of the restrictive covenant.
In a separate claim by Ferguson against Uthoff, all the jurors agreed Uthoff was in breach of the assignment of fees earned from his practice. They assessed damages of $4,000 for Ferguson.
The trial ended at 7 p.m. Thursday.
The lawsuit began in July 2002, when the four physicians, along with Dr. Tony Poole, left FMG, after which the group filed suit. FMG alleged in the suits that the departing physicians failed to honor the terms of their partnership agreement with the remaining doctors when they left to work for Missouri Delta Medical Center.
In the restrictive covenant, FMG partner physicians agree to not practice medicine within a 40-mile radius of FMG's main location at 1012 N. Main St. for two years upon leaving the group.
Poole reached a settlement with the group earlier in September.
When the doctors were employed by MDMC, FMG alleged MDMC had violated federal anti-trust laws, claiming improper, predatory and harmful competitive practices. This case was thrown out of court by U.S. District Court Judge Catherine D. Perry of Missouri's eastern district, in August.
The charges were dismissed with prejudices and can not be refiled.
With the conclusion of the case in Scott County Court, Missouri Delta Medical Center President Charles Ancell, said today he hoped the two medical groups can return to working together.
"I certainly hope, and I think everyone at the hospital hopes, the resolution of the case puts all this behind us so we can all get back to working to improve health care in Sikeston and Southeast Missouri," he said.