Plaintiffs in federal Ballad Health lawsuit may appeal judge’s dismissal


UPDATE: The attorney for the plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit filed against Ballad Health says an appeal may be filed after a judge dismissed the case.

Attorney Frank Santore sent this statement to News Channel 11 on Wednesday night:

In our country, we are governed by laws, not by men. We accept the ruling of Federal District Judge Collier, who, we realize, has labored long and hard, as have all sides in this litigation, over resolution of the rather unique issues this case has presented. We shall be meeting shortly to determine the prudence of appealing this matter to the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati.”

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GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – Federal judge Curtis Collier has granted motions to dismiss a lawsuit filed against Ballad Health and East Tennessee State University’s medical provider organization that was filed in April on behalf of a group of area residents.

Represented by Frank Santore, those residents claimed the membership of Scott Niswonger and David Golden on both Ballad’s board and ETSU’s Board of Trustees created an “improper and unlawful interlocking directorate.” That, in turn, could have eliminated competition between Ballad and ETSU Physicians, operated by Medical Education Assistance Corp. and under the purview of ETSU’s trustees.

The suit also claimed a conflict on the part of ETSU President Brian Noland.

Collier dismissed the suit without prejudice. He ruled that the plaintiffs lacked subject-matter jurisdiction, or standing to sue in federal court. In a memorandum explaining his ruling, he wrote that the plaintiffs would have needed to show they had suffered harm as a result of the alleged violation.

“The only mention of a specific injury in the complaint is that, ‘(i)n the extreme, as Trustees of (ETSU), Niswonger and Golden have the authority, in conjunction with their fellow trustees, to dissolve the defendant, ETSU Physicians, and thus completely stifle its status as a market competitor with Ballad,” the memorandum states. “However, the allegation fails to describe a concrete harm to the Plaintiffs…”

Collier also denied the plaintiffs’ motion for an amendment, saying it couldn’t survive a motion to dismiss.

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