Before Reliable Fire, courts asked to enforce noncompete agreements against doctors often assumed the patient's relationship was with the practice, not the physician, Mr. Valiulis said.
Instead, the Supreme Court proposed a “totality of the circumstances” test to determine if it was reasonable to enforce the agreement. That in turn has strengthened doctors' legal ability to challenge noncompetes, according to experts.
On May 8, the appellate court overturned an injunction granted against Drs. Gary Ochwat and Craig Halihan, who had left Niles, Ill.-based Northwest Podiatry Center Ltd. to start their own practice. In an opinion written by Justice Thomas Hoffman, the court ruled that the trial court had overreached when it permanently barred the two podiatrists from treating any patients from Northwest Podiatry. The appellate court upheld an injunction preventing the doctors from interfering with a contract the practice had with a managed-care provider in the northwest suburbs.
Northwest Podiatry is appealing the decision to the state Supreme Court, said attorney Gary Hollander, a partner at Northbrook-based Strauss & Malk LLC, who represents the practice.
That decision came about a month after a different three-judge panel affirmed a trial court's refusal to enforce a noncompete agreement against Dr. Mick Meiselman, who left Kenilworth, Ill.-based Gastroenterology Consultants of the North Shore SC to join NorthShore University Health System, where he is chief of advanced therapeutic endoscopy. That opinion was written by Justice Michael Hyman.
James Dahl, a partner at Chicago-based law firm Dahl & Bonadies LLC, who represents the gastroenterology practice, said the trial and appellate courts “simply ignored” case law that supports his client's position.
The practice is also appealing the case to the Supreme Court. Avery Delott, a partner in Lincolnwood, Ill.-based law firm Kamensky Rubinstein Hochman & Delott LLP who is representing Dr. Meiselman, declined to comment.
"Judges giving departing doctors new leverage" originally appeared in Crain's Chicago Business.