State ex rel. Sams v. Ohio Valley General Hospital Association

State ex rel. Sams v. Ohio Valley General Hospital Association, 149 W.Va. 229, 140 S.E.2d 457 (1965), concerned the issue whether a private hospital has authority to exclude, in its discretion, members of the medical profession from membership on its staff. The petitioner, Dr. Sams, a physician and surgeon licensed to practice medicine, applied for appointment to the medical staff of the respondent, Ohio Valley General Hospital Association, but was summarily denied. Dr. Sams then sought a writ of mandamus from this Court compelling Ohio Valley General to appoint him to its medical staff or, in the alternative, to afford him a hearing on his application. The Court first determined that "the controlling question here is whether the respondent hospital is a private or a public hospital," 149 W.Va. at 232, 140 S.E.2d at 459, and found Ohio Valley General to be a private hospital. The Court then looked to its language in State ex rel. Bronaugh, supra, concerning the right of private hospitals to exclude licensed physicians from the use of their facilities. Concluding that Dr. Sams failed to establish a clear legal right to the requested relief, the Court explained: It is well settled by the great weight of authority and, in fact, is readily admitted by the petitioner, that a physician does not have a constitutional or any vested right to membership on a hospital staff. When the hospital involved is determined to be a public institution, a physician applicant to the medical staff is entitled to membership thereon or to a hearing of the reasons for the refusal of his application. If upon hearing it is found that the governing authorities have acted arbitrarily, capriciously or unreasonably, mandamus may lie. This right does not exist, however, in relation to a private hospital, which may, in its discretion, exclude any physician from its staff without being required to give any reason therefor. (149 W.Va. at 238, 140 S.E.2d at 463.) Accordingly, the Court held in Syllabus Point 4 of Sams that "the governing authorities of a private hospital, in the exercise of their discretion, have the absolute right to exclude licensed physicians from its medical staff and such action is not subject to judicial review."