A fifth uninsured billing lawsuit filed by attorney Richard Scruggs was dismissed Monday at the plaintiffs' request, following similar action taken by four other Scruggs clients this month. The plaintiffs were not sure their complaint against Integris Health, Oklahoma City, would be consolidated with close to 50 similar suits nationwide and decided to withdraw, a Scruggs spokeswoman said. The plaintiffs may file the case in state court, she said. Robert Baudino, an attorney defending hospitals in such suits, said Scruggs wanted to avoid a possible court decision dismissing the case outright in advance of a Thursday hearing on consolidating the suits by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.
In other legal news, White Sands Health Care System, Alamogordo, N.M., settled allegations by the Federal Trade Commission that the system fixed prices for physician and nurse anesthetist services. The complaint is the 21st filed by the FTC in the past three years alleging price-fixing by physician organizations. White Sands includes 45-physician Alamogordo Physicians Cooperative Independent Practice Association, 77-bed Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center, a physician-hospital association formed by the two, and 31 nonphysician providers, including five nurse anesthetists. The consent decree bars the organizations and their agent, James Laurenza and his company, Dacite, Louisville, Ky., from negotiating collective agreements on behalf of providers. White Sands officials could not be reached by deadline. -- by Paul Barr and Mark Taylor