Federal judge dismisses antitrust case against Premier Health

U.S. District Court Judge Walter Rice dismissed an antitrust lawsuit brought by the Medical Center at Elizabeth Place against Premier Health just days before a trial was to begin. STAFF/FILE

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U.S. District Court Judge Walter Rice dismissed an antitrust lawsuit brought by the Medical Center at Elizabeth Place against Premier Health just days before a trial was to begin. STAFF/FILE

A federal judge recently dismissed a 5½-year-old antitrust lawsuit against Premier Health brought by the Medical Center at Elizabeth Place.

The suit filed in February 2012 in Dayton’s U.S. District Court claimed that southwest Ohio’s largest hospital network and others colluded by “coercing, compelling or co-opting commercial health insurers or managed care providers” to cut off access to the 26-bed Medical Center (MCEP) for their networks.

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In a 56-page decision, U.S. District Court Judge Walter Rice dismissed the case, but noted that the technical ruling was the legal equivalent of “inside baseball.”

Rice wrote that the decision “merely reflects firm opinion that MCEP’s claims, contentions and allegations must be considered by a different legal standard from that which MCEP maintains is applicable.”

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The judge also wrote, “This decision should not be considered either as a failure of proof by MCEP or an exoneration of the Defendants.”

Rice considered the case after a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling reversed Judge Timothy Black’s dismissal of the case.

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“We believe the Premier Health system has always been organized and operated in accordance with the law, including the antitrust laws,” said Dale Creech, chief legal officer for Premier Health. “We also have always believed that this case, as filed, was without merit, and we are gratified that Judge Rice agreed with our position and dismissed it.”

A statement from MCEP said, in part, that the appellate court “observed last year that the Premier hospitals declared war on MCEP in 2006 and threatened to stop it from ever even opening its doors.”

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The statement quoted MCEP chairman John Fleishman as saying: “We are surprised that the brand new Judge dismissed our case five days before a jury could begin to hear evidence demonstrating that the defendants violated the antitrust laws.”

MCEP added the setback “is just one more battle in a long war” and that “MCEP is confident that the Court of Appeals will once again rule in our favor and that we will then be awarded substantial damages from a jury in 2018.”

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