The Florida Supreme Court has struck down a century-old law requiring husbands to pay for their wives' housing, food, clothing and medical bills. Because the U.S. Constitution demands "equality between the sexes, it follows that a husband can no longer be held liable for his wife's" debts, the court said in a 5-2 decision. The ruling also thwarts efforts to make wives responsible for debts incurred by their husbands. The ruling stemmed from a 1993 lawsuit by Southwest Florida Regional Medical Center in Fort Myers against Ken and Barbara Connor of Naples. The hospital performed cancer surgery on Ken Connor, 68, that cost nearly $100,000. When Connor, who was uninsured, could not afford to pay the entire bill immediately, the hospital sued to make his wife pay by extending the doctrine to the wife. The court's precedent-setting ruling stops the hospital from trying to collect from Barbara Connor, said Thomas Garlick, the couple's lawyer. Randy Smith, spokesman for the hospital, said the ruling could lead to abuses that would hurt other providers. Well-off patients could avoid paying hospital debts by simply transferring their assets to their spouses, he said. Florida joins Alabama, Maryland, Mississippi and Virginia in striking down such laws, Garlick said.
Roger Hunt, a top executive at Northwestern Healthcare in Chicago, was selected as president and chief executive officer at Greater Rochester (N.Y.) Health System, the system's board of directors announced last week. Hunt, 52, who has been senior vice president of system development at Northwestern since 1993, will assume his new duties in early February. GRHS is a three-hospital system that includes Rochester General Hospital, Genesee Hospital in Rochester and Newark-Wayne Community Hospital in Newark, N.Y. It also has a nursing home, a behavioral health service and various senior services in the Rochester area. Hunt will replace GRHS co-presidents Paul Hanson and Arthur "Fritz" Liebert, who are both retiring.
Four attorneys at one of the nation's leading bond counsels have joined another firm looking to bolster its healthcare finance practice. Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue has hired Lynn Leland Coe, Harold Sutter, Michael Mitchell and S. Louise Rankin away from Chapman and Cutler's Chicago office. Chapman served as counsel on 24 tax-exempt healthcare deals in 1995 worth $1.1 billion, according to Securities Data Co.'s list of top 25 firms. Jones didn't make the same list, which includes firms that work on 99% of the tax-exempt volume for 1995. "We view their coming on board as further rounding out the commitment that we have to the healthcare industry," said Robert Yolles, who heads Jones' securities practice. Jones' new partners will be based in the firm's Chicago office.
Two physician-owned multispecialty clinics in Portland, Ore., agreed to merge last month, creating a group of more than 100 primary-care and specialty physicians with 11 offices in the Portland area. The merger of 85-physician Metropolitan Clinic and 27-physician Suburban Medical Clinic will be effective Feb. 1.
The Cleveland Clinic Foundation finalized its agreement to merge with 279-bed Marymount Hospital in suburban Garfield Heights, Ohio. The deal, announced in March, is part of the two organizations' effort to form an integrated delivery system around 580-physician Cleveland Clinic and Cleveland Health Network, which has 11 affiliated hospitals (March 27, 1995, p. 6). The two will function as the same corporation with a common bottom line, but Marymount will retain its name. The organizations have combined assets of $1.1 billion and more than $930 million in revenues. South Bend, Ind.-based Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis, which founded Marymount in 1949, will continue as its sponsor.