Revealed: St. Luke’s hospital antitrust trial documents made public

From the Idaho Statesman

Hours of court testimony that took place behind closed doors a year ago are now open to the public.

The documents describe, among other things, emails in which local hospital executives talk about a “monopoly model.”

A group of news organizations, led by the Idaho Statesman, sued last year to get access to court proceedings and exhibits from the trial, which is now before a federal appeals court.

The trial pitted St. Luke’s Health System against its main competitor — Saint Alphonsus Health System — and the federal and state governments, who accused St. Luke’s of violating antitrust laws when it bought Nampa’s Saltzer Medical Group, creating a near-monopoly over primary care in Nampa.

U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled against St. Luke’s and ordered it to divest Saltzer. His ruling is now before a federal appeals court.

THE ‘M’ WORD

Among other things, the documents show lawyers questioning St. Luke’s executives Randall Billings and Geoffrey Swanson about emails they exchanged in 2011.

From the Swanson deposition:

Q: Further down, “No. 3. Scenario Planning,” reads, “A monopoly model.” What is that in reference to?
A: I don’t know.
Q: And below that, romanette number 4, “FTC risk”? Do you have an understanding of what that means?
A: I’m not sure if that has enough context for me to understand what that might mean or what we were talking about at that particular point in time.

Billings in his deposition tells lawyers he does not remember the email or know of any conversations about a “monopoly” at St. Luke’s.

During the trial, lawyers vaguely referenced an “M word” document while the courtroom was open to the public.

MORE BECOMES PUBLIC

Reporters and the public, including hospital employees, were ushered out of the courtroom for long segments of the trial and weren’t allowed to see or hear much of the evidence.

District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said he wanted to protect trade secrets and signed off on the closed-door testimony and sealed documents. He later heard arguments from the news organizations, then agreed to review each piece of the trial that had been kept from the public.

He ordered everyone involved in the lawsuit to release documents months ago. The release has been delayed as businesses asked Winmill to reconsider small parts of his order.

The Idaho Attorney General’s Office filed the documents into the federal court record this week, after the news organizations pushed once more for access.

“We take openness and transparency in government and the courts seriously, and we’re pleased to help make available for public consumption the transcripts and testimony from this important case,” said Todd Dvorak, spokesman for Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.

From the Idaho Statesman

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