HCA wins lawsuit: Physician plaintiff now accuses HCA of improperly influencing judge

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A physician has filed a lawsuit claiming Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Holdings beat his antitrust appeal due to Ninth Circuit Judge Jay Bybee being improperly assigned to the case.

On March 4, 2004, Richard B. Fox, MD, commenced an antitrust action against Good Samaritan Hospital of San Jose (Calif.) and its corporate owner, HCA. In March 2010, a district judge granted HCA's motion for summary judgment and Dr. Fox appealed the case to the Ninth Circuit.

Judge Bybee was assigned as the presiding judge on appeal. In July 2011, Dr. Fox moved to recuse the presiding judge for conflicts related to his ties with HCA counsel Latham & Watkins and Ropes & Gray. In his recently filed lawsuit, Dr. Fox alleges Judge Bybee received approximately $3.7 million in free legal assistance from firms that represented HCA.

Although Judge Bybee denied Dr. Fox's motion, the judge did end up recusing himself from the case in August 2011. However, after the recusal there was no rehearing before a new panel of judges, and the panel affirmed the lower court's ruling in February 2012.

Dr. Fox believes the lawsuit would have had a different outcome on appeal if the case had been reheard before a new panel of judges that had not been influenced by Judge Bybee. Dr. Fox has asked the court to vacate the decision in the antitrust case because HCA "perpetrated a fraud upon the court." Dr. Fox claims "HCA exerted improper influence, by as yet undetermined means" to cause Judge Bybee to be assigned to the panel in the case.

Dr. Fox's case is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern Division of California.

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