Law School Case Brief
Spiro v. Highlands Gen. Hosp. - 489 So. 2d 802 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1986)
When a statute declares it to be unlawful to perform certain acts without first obtaining a license permitting the performance of such acts and imposes a penalty for the violation thereof, or where the statute prohibiting certain acts is enacted for the protection of the public, contracts made for the performance of such acts without first obtaining the appropriate license, are unenforceable. There is no legal remedy for that which is illegal itself.
Plaintiff Victor E. Spiro was a dentist licensed to practice in Florida. Spiro had special training in the field of general, nondental anesthesia but was not licensed for medical practice. Spiro applied for staff privileges as a general anesthesiologist with defendant Highlands General Hospital ("Hospital"). The parties entered into a contract under which Spiro would provide anesthesia services in return for Hospital staff privileges. The agreement required Spiro to obtain a general anesthesia license. The Hospital's subsequent request for Medicare reimbursement for Spiro's services was denied for lack of proper medical licensing. The Hospital requested that Siro refrain from taking any other cases until the problem was corrected. Spiro then filed a lawsuit against the Hospital in Florida state court seeking damages based on promissory estoppel, breach of contract, and quantum meruit. He also requested reinstatement of staff privileges. The Hospital filed a motion for summary judgment, which was granted. The circuit court found that the contract was illegal and void.
Could a licensed dentist with an educational background in anesthesiology practice general anesthesiology without a medical license?
The state supreme court affirmed the circuit court, holding that, although Spiro might have been qualified to practice dental anesthesiology, he was not licensed to practice general anesthesiology. Spiro could not legally be on the Hospital's staff. Moreover, the court held that it was illegal for a dentist to practice general, non-dental anesthesiology, and the contract in which Spiro agreed to do so was illegal by its nature, and, therefore, unenforceable. The court held that Spiro's claims based on promissory estoppel and quantum meruit had no merit.
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