The antitrust injury and antitrust standing defenses/doctrines are alive and well in healthcare. A recent case, SCPH Legacy Corp. et al. v. Palmetto Health et al., shows that a competitor is not always the most legally appropriate plaintiff to bring an antitrust case, especially when the competitor’s alleged harm stems from increased competition. This article explains the court’s reasoning and makes some predictions for similar arguments in the future.
On February 24, 2017, Judge Joseph F. Anderson of the District of South Carolina, granted a motion to dismiss all federal antitrust claims brought by a small hospital chain against its larger competitor for lack of antitrust injury and antitrust standing. The court held that poaching a group of doctors is not the type of injury that the antitrust laws are designed to protect when the suit is brought by a competitor, and that more direct plaintiffs exist.
Providence Hospitals, which operates a small hospital system in the midlands of South Carolina, alleged that Palmetto Health was a monopoly that secretly recruited employees of Providence’s orthopedic services business—the only competitive advantage that Providence had over Palmetto. Palmetto allegedly orchestrated for 300 orthopedic physicians, executives and staff to simultaneously quit Providence and move to Palmetto in mid-2015.