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Ansaarie v. First Coast Cardiovascular Institute

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

June 28, 2018

Imraan Ansaarie, M.D., Appellant,
v.
First Coast Cardiovascular Institute, P.A., Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.

          On appeal from the Circuit Court for Duval County. Tyrie Boyer, Judge.

          Seth Schwartz, Albert J. Tasker, IV, and Jesse Berryman of The Schwartz Law Group, P.A., Jacksonville, for Appellant.

          Bryan S. Gowdy of Creed & Gowdy, P.A., Jacksonville; Michelle Barnett and Todd A Wright of Alexander Degance Barnett, P.A., Jacksonville, for Appellee.

          ROBERTS, J.

         The appellant, Dr. Imraan Ansaarie, challenges a temporary injunction entered by the lower court on behalf of the appellee, First Coast Cardiovascular Institute, P.A. (FCCI), that severely restricted his ability to practice medicine in Putnam County, Florida. We find no error with the temporary injunction and affirm.

         Facts

         FCCI is a professional medical practice that provides medical care in the fields of cardiovascular medicine and sleep disorders. FCCI operates medical offices in several Florida counties, including Putnam County. In 2013, FCCI began expending substantial resources to develop a cardiology practice in Putnam County, which included marketing, hiring physicians and support staff, and constructing a large catheterization laboratory within walking distance of the local hospital, Putnam County Medical Center (PCMC). PCMC also has its own catheterization laboratory wherein cardiologists employed by FCCI, as well as cardiologists who are not employed by FCCI, can practice. In 2013, FCCI contracted with PCMC to provide 24/7 "STEMI" services[1] at the hospital. FCCI expends significant resources annually in order to meet its contractual requirement with PCMC.

         In furtherance of its efforts in Putnam County, FCCI recruited Dr. Ansaarie, a well-respected interventional cardiovascular surgeon, from out-of-state. Dr. Ansaarie entered into a Physicians Employment Agreement (the Agreement) with FCCI in April 2014, wherein he agreed to be bound by the terms and restrictive covenants of the Agreement. The non-competition provision prohibited Dr. Ansaarie from providing competing cardiovascular services within a five-mile radius of FCCI's practice for two years after termination of employment. The non-solicitation provision prohibited Dr. Ansaarie from soliciting[2] an FCCI patient, referral source, or vendor for competing cardiovascular services within the restricted geographic area and time period.

         Dr. Ansaarie began his employment with FCCI in September 2014. FCCI invested in Dr. Ansaarie's success by marketing him and by providing him with access to FCCI's patients and referral sources. FCCI also arranged for Dr. Ansaarie to become the medical director of the PCMC Catheterization Laboratory, which position he assumed in 2015.

         In October 2016, while still employed with FCCI, Dr. Ansaarie filed articles of incorporation with the Florida Department of State to create his own independent medical practice in Putnam County.[3] In November 2016, FCCI gave Dr. Ansaarie notice that his employment would terminate on March 23, 2017. After termination, Dr. Ansaarie continued to see patients at his independent medical practice and continued to treat patients at PCMC. He also continued to serve as director of the PCMC Catheterization Laboratory.

         Injunctive Relief

         FCCI immediately sought injunctive relief to restrain Dr. Ansaarie from breaching the restrictive covenants. FCCI alleged that it had legitimate business interests in its substantial relationships with specific prospective and/or existing patients and referral sources as well as legitimate business interests in the customer and patient goodwill that it had established in the area. FCCI put forth evidence that its referral sources had declined since Dr. Ansaarie's departure and that many existing patients had asked to have their files transferred to Dr. Ansaarie's practice. The lower court granted the motion for temporary injunction, finding FCCI had satisfied all of the elements for temporary injunctive relief. The lower court found FCCI's asserted interests were "legitimate business interests," the restrictive covenants were valid and enforceable, and Dr. Ansaarie's contravention of these covenants would irreparably harm FCCI.

         The order temporarily enjoined Dr. Ansaarie from, among other things, providing cardiovascular services within the prohibited five-mile radius, including treating patients at PCMC; soliciting FCCI's patients, and soliciting FCCI's referral sources ...


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