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Armbruster v. Mercy Medical Group

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division

May 12, 2015

LISA ARMBRUSTER, Respondent,
v.
MERCY MEDICAL GROUP, Appellant

Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County. 11SL-CC03016. Honorable Tom W. DePriest, Jr.

Christopher M. Sanders, St. Louis, MO, for appellant.

J. Patrick Chassaing, Edward J. Sluys, St. Louis, MO, for respondent.

OPINION

Gary M. Gaertner, Jr., Judge

Introduction

Mercy Medical Group (Mercy) appeals the summary judgment entered in favor of Dr. Lisa Armbruster (Armbruster) on her breach of contract claim. Mercy argues the trial court erred in its interpretation of the employment contract at issue. We affirm.

Background

Armbruster worked as a physician for Mercy from August 1, 2003, until she voluntarily terminated her employment effective November 30, 2010. Armbruster and Mercy entered a physician services contract (the Contract) governing her employment. Section 4.1 of the Contract governed compensation, and it provided that " [Armbruster] shall be compensated . . . in consideration of providing services hereunder and for agreeing to the non-compete restrictions . . . ." Exhibit A of the Contract described Armbruster's compensation. It referred to Mercy's productivity compensation model, which was the method Mercy employed for computing a physician's compensation based on several factors. At the time Armbruster terminated her employment with Mercy, Section III of Exhibit A governed her compensation:

[Armbruster]'s compensation after the third (3rd) year of this Agreement shall be equal to [Armbruster]'s actual performance as determined by the [Mercy] productivity compensation model.

Though the productivity compensation model was not attached to the Contract, the parties agree that a document entitled " Physician Compensation Model" (PCM) contained the compensation method referred to in Exhibit A. The PCM included three components that make up a physician's salary: base compensation, additional compensation, and incentive compensation. Only the base compensation component is relevant here. Base compensation began with " collections," a term that is not defined in the PCM. Collections would first be reduced by three percent, and then " practice expenses" would be subtracted from that amount. The difference would be the physician's base compensation.

On July 27, 2011, Armbruster filed a petition against Mercy bringing claims of breach of contract and unjust enrichment. She alleged that Mercy failed to compensate her in accordance with the PCM for revenues she generated during her employment but that Mercy collected after November 30, 2010, the last date of her employment. Essentially, she claimed she never received her portion of " collections" that came from patients she treated, but whose bills were not paid until after her last day of work.

Both parties subsequently filed motions for summary judgment. The trial court granted Armbruster's motion for summary judgment on her breach of contract claim. The court found that the receipt of collections always trails the rendition of a physician's services, and that the PCM did not limit the term " collections" to only those monies collected before a physician's last day of employment. The trial court concluded the Contract unambiguously entitled Armbruster to compensation for services she rendered while employed with Mercy, but for which payment was not received until after November 30, 2010. The trial court found that Mercy owed Armbruster past-due compensation and interest in the amount of $33,995.64 on Armbruster's breach of contract claim. The trial court dismissed Armbruster's claim of unjust enrichment as moot. This appeal follows.

Standard of Review

Our review of summary judgment is essentially de novo. ITT Commercial Fin. Corp. v. Mid-Am. Marine Supply Corp.,854 S.W.2d 371, 376 (Mo. banc 1993). We uphold the summary judgment if (1) there is no genuine dispute of material fact, and (2) the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. We view the facts and supporting affidavits in the light most favorable to the non-movant, and we accord the non-movant the benefit of all reasonable inferences from the record. Id. Contract ...


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