Southcoast Health urges court to toss Steward's monopoly lawsuit

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New Bedford, Mass.-based Southcoast Health System has urged a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Boston-based Steward Healthcare, claiming Steward failed to state a claim under federal or state antitrust law.

Steward wants to open a diagnostic cardiac catheterization laboratory in St. Anne's Hospital in Fall River, Mass. — a move that is strongly opposed by Southcoast. Cardiac catheterization is already performed at two Southcoast hospitals, which are located close to St. Anne's: Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River, located two miles away, and St. Luke's Hospital in New Bedford, located 15 miles away.

Southcoast tried to prevent Steward's unit at St. Anne's from opening through a lawsuit filed in October. Although a judge declined to issue a preliminary injunction to block the lab from opening, Southcoast said it would press forward with the litigation. In December, Steward fired back by filing a federal lawsuit, alleging Southcoast is violating a federal antitrust law. Steward also alleges Southcoast's state lawsuit is a "sham" and that Southcoast has defamed Steward in the media.

On Monday, Southcoast filed a motion to dismiss Steward's lawsuit, claiming Steward failed to meet the necessary elements to set forth a monopolization claim.

"Steward does not claim that Southcoast's alleged monopoly is or has been an illegal monopoly. Instead, Steward alleges that Southcoast is illegally trying to 'maintain' or prolong its monopoly by engaging in exclusionary activity to 'prevent or at least delay' Steward's entry," the motion to dismiss states.

Regarding Steward's defamation claim, Southcoast said two of the three statements the claim is based on appeared in a guest opinion piece written by Southcoast's president and CEO published in the Herald News, and the third statement was in an article published by the Boston Globe. "Because none of the statements at issue are 'statements of fact,' Steward's defamation claim fails as a matter of law," the motion states.

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