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R.B.E., PLLC v. Emergency Coverage Corp.

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

November 16, 2017

R.B.E., PLLC et al.
v.
EMERGENCY COVERAGE CORPORATION

          Session May 23, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Knox County No. 2-540-15 Kristi M. Davis, Judge

         This case focuses on a service contract between R.B.E, PLLC (RBE) and Emergency Coverage Corporation pursuant to which Dr. Robert Bruce Evans[1] and his company were to provide medical services in emergency rooms. The issue before us is whether the subject contract obligates Emergency Coverage to schedule Dr. Evans for a minimum number of hours. Dr. Evans[2] and RBE filed a breach of contract action alleging that Emergency Coverage failed to pay the required minimum monthly amounts due under the contract. Emergency Coverage filed a motion for summary judgment asserting that the contract contains a minimum availability requirement for Dr. Evans but no obligation on the part of Emergency Coverage to use Dr. Evans for a guaranteed number of hours. The trial court granted the motion. The plaintiffs appeal. We affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed; Case Remanded

          Mark T. Hurt, Abingdon, Virginia, for the appellants, R.B.E., PLLC, and David Michael Serrano, Executor of the Estate of Dr. Robert Bruce Evans.

          Andrew R. Tillman and Jeremey R. Goolsby, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Emergency Coverage Corporation.

          Charles D. Susano, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John W. McClarty and Kenny W. Armstrong, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          CHARLES D. SUSANO, JR., JUDGE.

         I.

         Emergency Coverage is a staffing company that contracts with physicians to provide coverage in hospital emergency rooms. The plaintiff RBE entered into a contract with Emergency Coverage for Dr. Evans to provide medical services at two hospitals. The genesis of this litigation is in the language of the service contract; "Addendum 1" executed contemporaneously with the contract; and three amendments to Addendum 1. The relevant portions of the parties' agreement can be found in the original contract, and the four Addenda. The following is from the contract:

Scheduling. Professional agrees to provide Services at Facilities during mutually agreeable shifts, including holidays as necessary in accordance with the minimum availability requirements set forth in Addendum "1". For each month that this Agreement is in effect, Professional will notify Company of the days Professional is not available to provide Services. When scheduling Professional to perform Services, Company shall use reasonable efforts to accommodate Professional's availability. In the event that Professional is or becomes unable to provide Services as scheduled by Company, Professional must immediately notify Company and locate a replacement to fill Professional's vacant shift in order that the schedule may be filled. Except in cases of emergency, if Professional fails to procure replacement coverage to fill Professional's vacant shift, Professional will pay Company any expenses incurred by Company in providing a substitute for Professional.

As previously noted in this opinion, Addendum 1 was amended three times. The last amendment was effective during the timeframe relevant to this appeal. Dr. Evans was obligated to provide emergency room services at two locations, Wythe County Community Hospital and Clinch Valley Medical Center. The following language from that last amendment is relevant:

Service Locations; Base Compensation; Scheduling Requirement. Professional agrees to provide Services under this Agreement for the number of hours or shifts as set forth below at the following Facility(ies) [sic] at the following base rates for Services provided by Professional:
Facility Name
a. Wythe County Hospital
b. Clinch Valley Medical Center
Service Line
a. Emergency ...

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