Jefferson Parish Hosp. Dist. v. Hyde - 466 U.S. 2 (1984)

U.S. Supreme Court

Jefferson Parish Hosp. Dist. v. Hyde, 466 U.S. 2 (1984)

Jefferson Parish Hospital District No. 2 v. Hyde

No. 82-1031

Argued November 2, 1983

Decided March 27, 1984

466 U.S. 2


A hospital governed by petitioners has a contract with a firm of anesthesiologists requiring all anesthesiological services for the hospital's patients to be performed by that firm. Because of this contract, respondent anesthesiologist's application for admission to the hospital's medical staff was denied. Respondent then commenced an action in Federal District Court, claiming that the exclusive contract violated § 1 of the Sherman Act, and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The District Court denied relief, finding that the anticompetitive consequences of the contract were minimal, and outweighed by benefits in the form of improved patient care. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding the contract illegal "per se." The court held that the case involved a "tying arrangement" because the users of the hospital's operating rooms (the tying product) were compelled to purchase the hospital's chosen anesthesiological services (the tied product), that the hospital possessed sufficient market power in the tying market to coerce purchasers of the tied product, and that, since the purchase of the tied product constituted a "not insubstantial amount of interstate commerce," the tying arrangement was therefore illegal "per se."

Held: The exclusive contract in question does not violate § 1 of the Sherman Act. 466 U. S. 9-32.

(a) Any inquiry into the validity of a tying arrangement must focus on the market or markets in which the two products are sold, for that is where the anticompetitive forcing has its impact. Thus, in this case, the analysis of the tying issue must focus on the hospital's sale of services to its patients, rather than its contractual arrangements with the providers of anesthesiological services. In making that analysis, consideration must be given to whether petitioners are selling two separate products that may be tied together, and, if so, whether they have used their market power to force their patients to accept the tying arrangement. Pp. 466 U. S. 9-18.

(b) No tying arrangement can exist here unless there is a sufficient demand for the purchase of anesthesiological services separate from hospital services to identify a distinct product market in which it is efficient to offer anesthesiological services separately from hospital services. The

Page 466 U. S. 3

fact that the exclusive contract requires purchase of two services that would otherwise be purchased separately does not make the contract illegal. Only if patients are forced to purchase the contracting firm's services as a result of the hospital's market power would the arrangement have anticompetitive consequences. If no forcing is present, patients are free to enter a competing hospital and to use another anesthesiologist instead of the firm. 466 U. S. 18-25.

(c) The record does not provide a basis for applying the per se rule against tying to the arrangement in question. While such factors as the Court of Appeals relied on in rendering its decision -- the prevalence of health insurance as eliminating a patient's incentive to compare costs, and patients' lack of sufficient information to compare the quality of the medical care provided by competing hospitals -- may generate "market power" in some abstract sense, they do not generate the kind of market power that justifies condemnation of tying. Tying arrangements need only be condemned if they restrain competition on the merits by forcing purchases that would not otherwise be made. The fact that patients of the hospital lack price consciousness will not force them to take an anesthesiologist whose services they do not want. Similarly, if the patients cannot evaluate the quality of anesthesiological services, it follows that they are indifferent between certified anesthesiologists even in the absence of a tying arrangement. Pp. 466 U. S. 26-29.

(d) In order to prevail in the absence of per se liability, respondent has the burden of showing that the challenged contract violated the Sherman Act because it unreasonably restrained competition, and no such showing has been made. The evidence is insufficient to provide a basis for finding that the contract, as it actually operates in the market, has unreasonably restrained competition. All the record establishes is that the choice of anesthesiologists at the hospital has been limited to one of the four doctors who are associated with the contracting firm. If respondent were admitted to the hospital's staff, the range of choice would be enlarged, but the most significant restraints on the patient's freedom to select a specific anesthesiologist would nevertheless remain. There is no evidence that the price, quality, or supply or demand for either the "tying product" or the "tied product" has been adversely affected by the exclusive contract, and no showing that the market as a whole has been affected at all by the contract. Pp. 466 U. S. 29-32.

686 F.2d 286, reversed and remanded.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 466 U. S. 32. O'CONNOR,

Page 466 U. S. 4

J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which BURGER, C.J., and POWELL and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined, post, p. 466 U. S. 32.

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