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Ballad Health lawsuit plaintiffs file amended appeal

Hank Hayes • Feb 29, 2020 at 2:30 PM

GREENEVILLE — Ten local residents whose federal lawsuit against Ballad Health was dismissed in December have filed an amended appeal with the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Greeneville attorney Francis X. Santore Jr., who represents the plaintiffs, suggested in the appeal that the trial court erred in its determination that his clients lacked standing to file the lawsuit and that the court erred when it denied permission to amend their original complaint.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Last year, the group of 10 local residents filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Greeneville against Ballad, ETSU Physicians and all 11 members of Ballad’s board of directors.

The plaintiffs include Christine and David Bearden, Terri Cook, Carolyn Gibbons, Elmer and Ladonna Greer, Mark Hutchins, Kevin Mitchell, Jamie Pierson and Crystal Regan. Defendants include ETSU Physicians, Ballad Health and its board of directors: Barbara Allen, Julie Bennett, David Golden, David Lester, Alan Levine, David May, Scott Niswonger, Brian Noland, Gary Peacock, Doug Springer and Keith Wilson.

The plaintiffs pointed out in their lawsuit that three members of the Ballad Health board — Golden, Niswonger and Noland — also serve as ETSU trustees/officers and as such claimed this was a conflict of interest because Ballad competes with ETSU Physicians.

The lawsuit sought an injunction preventing Golden, Niswonger and Noland from serving on two competing boards and an order compelling the reconstituting of the Ballad board of directors.

CASE DISMISSED

In December, U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier issued his ruling dismissing the lawsuit without prejudice. Collier ruled the plaintiffs did not provide any factual allegations of any potential injury.

Collier wrote in a memorandum that the plaintiffs did not allege any facts to demonstrate a concrete, particularized injury, saying the lawsuit fails to state the nature of an alleged injury beyond asserting a violation of (federal law).

“It is insufficient to claim injury based solely on the existence of a statutory violation,” Collier wrote. “There must be an allegation of harm as a result of the violation.”

MOTIONS AND RESPONSES

Last summer, the plaintiffs and the defendants filed a number of motions and responses to motions and memorandums in support of both.

In its motion to dismiss, Ballad argued that the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring the lawsuit in the first place, that they failed to allege a case or controversy and that Ballad has immunity under federal antitrust laws.

In addition to granting Ballad’s motion to dismiss, Collier also denied the plaintiff’s latest motion to amend the complaint.

APPEAL CONCLUSION

In their amended appeal, the residents claim they have a legally protected interest involving the opportunity and right to reside in an area where their access to universally necessary healthcare services is not subject to unlawful, anti-competitive threats. They also claim they have met the requirements to have standing in the case.

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