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Chris The Lawyer
Chris The Lawyer, Lawyer
Category: New Zealand Law
Satisfied Customers: 22981
Experience:  38 years qualified as a lawyer; LLB, MMgt and FAMINZ.
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My wife was employed a couple of years ago as a contractor

Customer Question

my wife was employed a couple of years ago as a contractor doctor at a medical clinic, where she works 3 days a week.
When she went for her interview they said to her ( I was present) that there would be some value in her bringing/attracting some of her patients from her previous employer.
She started work and after some months she attracted 600 patients over to her new place of work. After some time we decided to ask for some form of payment for her (typically value at $45 each) where she was told,(again I was present) actually you don't own them so we don't have to pay you, you don't hold a title over them so you cant sell them?
We walked away wondering what to do next, then some time after they asked my wife if we would be interested in buying into the practice and we said, Maybe.
They then said that maybe if we were to buy into the practice that they may take off the value of the patients as a show of goodwill.(surprise they admitted that) they have been delaying us for about two years saying they are trying to value the practice etc, They seem quite aloof.
They aren't straight up people as they keep saying, "we don't remember saying that".
what are my options as I don't want to partner people who operate like this? I would like some payment of the patients I attracted across . I am now exposed to 1100 plus clients, so I have formed good bonds with them. I have a restraint of trade ( I think it maybe 6 months). I could leave and try and take my patients elsewhere, how would I go pressing for payment, and finally how well would my contract stack up if they have been dishonest about bringing patients across
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: New Zealand Law
Expert:  Chris The Lawyer replied 1 year ago.

On an issue like this you need to be careful about the restraint of trade clause. As a contractor, this will effectively prevent you from setting up in competition for the six-month period, and they could obtain a court injunction to stop you if necessary.

Rather than go down the path of court action which will irretrievably damage any relationship, I wonder whether you are better setting up a formal meeting with a facilitator or even a commercial mediator, at which you can discuss these issues in a confidential but frank discussion. This may seem like a more unconventional way of resolving the issues, but the options would look difficult if you had to litigate. Even if she left, and waited the six months, then the owners would likely market the patients more strongly to persuade them not to move to a new practice.

If this does not work, then you may have to leave. But unless there is a specific agreement that you be paid the $45 for each patient you attracted to the practice, you would not be able to sue under your contract for this sum. You would need to have a specific cause of action to enable you to sue for that sort of payment, based on a contract. But if you leave, you can set up your own practice but would need to be careful about the patients who you attracted to the old practice, and could not possibly be seen to be soliciting them in any way.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thanks Chris, so even though there was a verbal agreement they would pay me, there is no recourse? Im not keen to leave I just want to be paid for what they verbally agreed to? Thanks for clarifying.
Expert:  Chris The Lawyer replied 1 year ago.

A verbal promise can be enforced, but the problem is always who would be believed. If the owners are vague as you describe they may may well say they didnt make any agreement, and it will come down to your word against theirs. That can be risky of course. If there are emails or letters which refer to the oral agreement that would help