Health First celebrates district judge's dismissal of lawsuits alleging monopoly, kickbacks

The integrated health system's chief legal officer described this week's complaints as "unfounded and frivolous" in a statement celebrating the decisions. (Getty/Andrii Yalanskyi)

Just days after filing, a U.S. district judge has dismissed two lawsuits brought against Health First, a Florida-based integrated health system.

The first case was filed Monday by three Florida residents and accused Health First of monopoly and trade restriction. The class action suit sought damages for what the plaintiffs described as above-competitive fees paid to the system for its acute care services. It also asked the court to intervene in Health First’s business practices.

Judge Roy B. Dalton Jr. ordered the complaint dismissed without prejudice as a shotgun pleading—a complaint with multiple counts where each count adopts the allegations of all preceding counts and tasks the court with “sifting out irrelevancies to determine which facts are relevant to which causes of action,” according to the order.

The plaintiffs may still choose to replead, but the amended complaint “must clearly delineate which factual allegations are relevant to each claim,” according to the order.

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The second lawsuit was filed a day later by Omni Healthcare, which had first entered a legal battle with Health First in 2016 before the two parties settled.

This suit was the third amendment tied to a 2019 qui tam complaint (a type of whistleblower lawsuit) that alleged a fraudulent kickback scheme. It was dismissed by Dalton with prejudice due to a prior agreement between the parties that a third such complaint would not be filed.

Health First celebrated the decisions in a statement, in which it said both suits were based on “baseless allegations” made by Omni Healthcare’s owner, Craig Deligdish, M.D.

“Health First appreciates Judge Dalton’s dismissal of these unfounded and frivolous lawsuits,” Nicholas Romanello, senior vice president and chief legal officer of Health First, said in a statement. “Craig Deligdish and his obsession with litigation against Health First has once again failed. These lawsuits divert millions of dollars to defend which should be used for our community.”

Health First is a not-for-profit group founded in 1995. It comprises four affiliated hospitals and holds subsidiaries that manage physician groups and administer health plans. According to its website, Health First employs more than 9,000 associates.