Orlando (Fla.) Regional Healthcare System turned up the heat on Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. in the South Seminole Hospital dispute after talks broke down to resolve who owns the hospital.
On Sept. 19, the not-for-profit hospital system asked a federal district court in Orlando for permission to file an amended complaint against Columbia that would level additional charges against the Nashville, Tenn.-based chain.
Among the new charges are an additional breach-of-contract allegation, a tortious interference with business claim, a request for unspecified monetary damages and a demand for a jury trial.
At deadline, U.S. District Judge G. Kendall Sharp had not ruled on Orlando Regional's motion. He had set a bench trial on the original complaint against Columbia for Feb. 1, 1996.
The ongoing dispute centers on the ownership of 206-bed South Seminole Hospital in Longwood, Fla. Orlando Regional and Healthtrust, which was acquired by Columbia in April, own the facility through a 1992 joint venture.
After Healthtrust's sale, Orlando Regional claimed it had a contractual right to acquire Healthtrust's 50% interest if the company's ownership changed.
Healthtrust, and subsequently Columbia, refused to sell, and Orlando Regional filed an antitrust and breach-of-contract lawsuit against the two for-profit chains in February.
In a preliminary ruling in April, Sharp granted Orlando Regional's request to bar the co-ownership of South Seminole to transfer to Columbia from Healthtrust, pending the outcome of the case. Sharp later postponed all legal proceedings in the case when the Federal Trade Commission, in clearing the Columbia-Healthtrust deal, ordered the South Seminole joint venture to be terminated with one side buying out the other (June 19, p. 54).
Columbia and Orlando Regional then began settlement talks, setting a December deadline to strike a deal.
Orlando Regional initially offered to buy Healthtrust's share for $12 million. Healthtrust wanted $24 million, which equaled its original investment.
John Cusack, Orlando Regional's outside antitrust attorney, confirmed that negotiations between the parties have broken down. "We're getting ready for trial," Cusack said.
Executives in Columbia's Florida division weren't available for comment.