Antitrust & Intellectual Property

Duke/UNC “No-Hire” Agreement

Issue: agreement to suppress compensation of medical professionals and staff

Lieff Cabraser represents Danielle M. Seaman, M.D., in a class action lawsuit against Duke University, Duke University Health System, and Dr. William L. Roper, M.D., M.P.H., in his official capacity as Dean and Vice-Chancellor of Medical Affairs for University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and Chief Executive Officer of the University of North Carolina Health Care System. The lawsuit alleges that an agreement between and among the defendants not to compete for certain of each other’s employees (a “No-Hire” agreement) illegally suppressed employee compensation.

Case Updates

On February 1, 2018, U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Eagles issued an order certifying a faculty class in the antitrust class action lawsuit against Duke University, UNC, and other related parties over their alleged agreement not to compete for certain of each other’s employees.

In her opinion, Judge Eagles noted that Dr. Seaman had met the class certification standards of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 with respect to the sought-after faculty class against the Duke defendants in that class treatment of the faculty members was appropriate because questions of law and fact common to the members of the class predominate over individual questions, and that a class action approach was superior to other available methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of the plaintiffs’ claims.

Previously, on January 5, 2018, Judge Eagles granted final approval to the partial settlement of antitrust class action claims against Duke University, UNC, and other related parties.

Partial Settlement Reached in Seaman v. Duke University, et al., No. 1:15-CV462 (M.D.N.C.)

On September 29, 2017, U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Eagles granted preliminary approval to a partial settlement of antitrust class action claims against Duke University, UNC, and other related parties. The partial settlement implements a variety of measures by the UNC Defendants to ensure that they will not enter into or enforce any unlawful no-hire agreements or similar restraints on competition. The settlement also requires the UNC Defendants to cooperate in providing documents, data and testimony to Dr. Seaman as she continues to pursue her case against the Duke Defendants. The Duke Defendants have not settled; they remain in the case, which is ongoing.

History of the Case

The complaint charges that the defendants entered into an express, secret agreement not to hire or attempt to hire certain medical facility faculty and staff that they each employed. The lawsuit seeks to recover damages and obtain injunctive relief, including treble damages, for defendants’ alleged violations of federal and North Carolina antitrust law.

On February 12, 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles denied defendants’ motions to dismiss the case on a variety of grounds, including a denial of state action immunity to antitrust liability. The Court rejected Defendants’ argument that they should be exempt from the nation’s antitrust laws because Dr. Roper, an alleged co-conspirator, is an administrator of a state university and health system. You can click here to read a copy of the Order.

Defendants sought permission to appeal from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. On June 3, 2016, a unanimous three-judge panel denied the request.

Contact us

If you are a medical faculty or staff worker and you think you may have been affected by the conduct described above, we welcome the opportunity to provide you information on your legal rights. We will review your claim for free and with no obligation on your part.

Please contact us using the form below or call us toll-free at 1 800 541-7358 and ask to speak to attorney Dean Harvey.

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