The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in Ballad Health’s favor by dismissing an antitrust lawsuit against the organization regarding its board members and called the plaintiff’s complaints “colorful insults.”
Two years ago, the Tennessee Department of Health allowed two health care companies — Wellmont Health System and Mountain States Health Alliance — to merge into a single entity known as Ballad Health. Some of the board members of the resulting entity also had ties to another health care organization in the area, the Medical Education Assistance Corp. (MEAC)
One year later, a group of plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging that Ballad, MEAC and various individuals created an interlocking directorate in violation of the Clayton Antitrust Act. An interlocking directorate is a practice when a member of one company’s board also serves on another company’s board.
Ballad and the other defendants then sought dismissal. The district court in Greeneville, Tennessee, dismissed the case after finding the plaintiffs did not provide any factual allegations of any potential injury. It was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
The plaintiffs appealed the case, sending it to the Sixth Circuit, where Circuit Judge Amul Thapar agreed with the lower court. In an opinion issued Thursday, Thapar also pointed out that Francis Santore Jr., lawyer for the plaintiffs, disparaged the opponent.
“As our court has previously explained, there are good reasons not to disparage your opponent, especially in court filings,” Thapar noted.
Thapar said that overstatements will “only push the reader away,” and the best practice is usually to lay out the facts and let the court reach its own conclusions.
“The most important reason here is that counsel’s colorful insults do nothing to show that his clients have standing to bring this lawsuit,” Thapar wrote.
The judge noted that the plaintiffs’ complaint included several “allegations,” including that MEAC “surrendered to [Ballad] much in the manner Marshal Petain surrendered France to Adolph Hitler.”
Thapar also noted that the plaintiffs said the Ballad merger was an “Octopus which was birthed by [two individuals] on one of the local golf courses while [they] were walking down the ‘green fairways of indifference,’ to the health, safety and welfare of millions of people.”
He also noted the claim that Ballad and MEAC are “intertwined in an incestuous relationship, the likes of which have not been seen since the days of Sodom and Gomorrah.”
Ballad Health said in a statement late Thursday that it appreciates the “objective and thoughtful ruling” issued by the Sixth Circuit.
“Each member of the Ballad Health board of directors acts with integrity, and every effort by the plaintiffs and their lawyer to suggest otherwise has been discarded by two federal courts,” Ballad Health said. “We are particularly grateful for the court’s clear rebuke of the plaintiffs’ counsel’s unprofessional and embarrassing conduct, which was on full display throughout this proceeding.”
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