Bello v. South Shore Hospital was a case before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 1981 concerning the application of open records laws to private corporations.
This case established that the mere presence of funding did not result in a private corporation being subject to judicial review. It however did allude that if a private body functioned in a public capacity, and was funded, owned and controlled by the state, it could be considered a public body.
- South Shore Hospital is a private non-profit corporation within the town of Weymouth. It is licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and accredited by a state accreditation committee.
- Alan S. Bello, Ibrahim F. Fanous, Bernard Spiegel and Philip G. Sullivan are physicians with privileges at Quincy City Hospital.
- On June 2, 1977, Bello and his associates applied for staff privileges at the South Shore Hospital.
- Their application was rejected by the hospital staff and their department.
- The physicians appealed the decision to the Hospital Board of Trustees, which accepted the decisions of the medical staff and selection committee and rejected the applications.
- The physicians appealed the decision to a court, seeking access to staff privileges.
- The trial court ruled in favor of the Hospital on the merits of the case but did determine that judicial review was possible.
- Both sides appealed the decision. The hospital wanted to eliminate the opportunity for judicial review, and the physicians continued to seek access to staff privileges.
Ruling of the court
The trial court first in an effort to establish jurisdiction, determined that the degree of State involvement in the regulation of the hospital was sufficient to warrant state judicial review. However the court went on to rule in favor of the hospital based on the merits of the case, determining the hospital was well within its rights to reject the physicians applications and that there was no denial of due process and the physicians 5th and 14th amendment rights.
The Court of Appeals went on to overturn the decision of the trial court in part, and render the case obsolete. The court first determined that the actions of the hospital in rejecting the applications were not considered state actions and were thus, not subject to judicial review. The court referenced a number of factors that separate state institutions from private institutions, including function, ownership, funding and control. Having established that the hospital is not a public body, the court went on to determine, citing federal cases, that only when the state presents the relationship between itself and the private corporation as symbiotic or interdependent are the actions of the private corporation subject to judicial review. The court went on to determine that the mere presence of funding and general State regulation were not sufficient to render to relationship close enough to provide for judicial review. Based on these factors the court determined that it did not have the power of judicial review and could not overturn the decisions of the hospital board.