Orthopedic surgeons leaving SSM Health did not break contract, court documents say


Jason Sansone, MD, and Brian Keyes, DO, who are being sued by Madison, Wis.-based SSM Health Dean Medical group, say they did not violate employment contracts when planning their own independent practice, according to a response filed Feb. 3 in Dane County Circuit Court. 

SSM Health sued Dr. Sansone and Dr. Keyes in November over allegations that the surgeons violated their agreements by planning their own practice during work and "induced and encouraged" other surgeons to breach their contracts. The two physicians and other orthopedic surgeons plan to form an independent practice. 

Dr. Sansone and Dr. Keyes' response described the lawsuit's allegations as "baseless" and said they met with the health system multiple times to discuss autonomy and partnerships. They were part of an Musculoskeletal Services Accelerated Work Team with SSM Dean Health to brainstorm plans to address growth and market competition. Areas of focus included providing value to patients and incentivizing orthopedic surgeons, according to the filing.

Dr. Sansone raised the idea of having employed orthopedic surgeons as a separate decision of SSM Dean Health or a professional services agreement. His ideas included a continued relationship with SSM Dean Health and "reflected the orthopedic surgeons' desire to have more professional autonomy," according to court documents. 

However, the health system did not approve of the request for autonomy, the response said.

The surgeons also argued they did not interfere with contractual relationships since the other orthopedic physicians leaving were free to resign, and the employee agreement did not prohibit them from planning an independent practice, the response said.

The response also said they did not interfere with "existing or prospective" contractual relationships.

"Dean has no right to the existing or future business of patients," the response said. "Patients are always free to seek care wherever they choose; they are not a contractual commodity used to drive corporate revenue. The law does not recognize any claim for interfering with such a relationship."

A spokesperson for SSM Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Becker's

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