The Idaho Supreme Court upheld a lower court's decision Tuesday ordering a Boise hospital to pay more than $52 million for violating a contract it had with an MRI company.
The decision is the latest development in St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center's lawsuit, involving one of the largest awards to come out of Idaho district courts. The hospital had appealed the multimillion-dollar verdict returned in 2011.
MRI Associates, which operates MRI Center of Idaho and MRI Mobile, first partnered with St. Alphonsus in 1985 in an attempt to make magnetic resonance imaging and other diagnostic tests more accessible.
The partnership was supposed to last until 2015, but the hospital created its own outpatient MRI facility in 1998. Six years later, the hospital announced it was dissolving the partnership with MRI Associates to use its own facility.
"In this case, the wrongful conduct was in the nature of usurping a partnership opportunity to open a facility in Meridian, which then competed against MRI Mobile," the justices wrote in the ruling.
Eventually, both sides filed suit. A jury awarded MRI Associates more than $63.5 million in 2007, saying it lost potential profits because of the breach in the contract. A judge later reduced the award to $36 million.
Two years later, the Idaho Supreme Court sent the case back for a retrial, where a new jury awarded MRI Associates more than $52 million.
"This case involved many years of litigation, including a prior favorable ruling by the Idaho Supreme Court," hospital spokesman Josh Schlaich said in a prepared statement. "We respect the work of the court, but are disappointed with this ruling."
Meanwhile, the law firm representing MRI Associates released a statement praising the court's decision, touting it as a win in a "David-versus-Goliath legal battle" that pitted a small business against a multimillion-dollar medical center.