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Judge refuses stay in UPMC-West Penn lawsuit

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012, 7:04 p.m.

A federal judge today denied UPMC's motion to halt a 2009 antitrust lawsuit filed by rival West Penn Allegheny Health System until the state Insurance Department rules on whether insurer Highmark Inc. can buy West Penn for $475 million. Highmark said it would drop the lawsuit and a separate false advertising lawsuit it filed against UPMC once the acquisition is complete. UPMC contends that moving forward with pretrial procedures and turning over "millions of pages" of documents would waste time and money under the circumstances. "We believe the case has been settled with West Penn and should be stayed," said Jonathan M. Jacobson, one of the lawyers representing UPMC in the nest of lawsuits. West Penn contends Highmark doesn't have the authority to order it to drop the antitrust lawsuit. "We have not agreed to the stay and will not agree to the stay," said Barbara T. Sicalides, one of the lawyers representing West Penn. U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti said there's no guarantee the merger will go through or that, if it does, the case will be dropped. She said she has no interest in dragging out a three-year-old case for another two to three years. "It's just way, way too long," she said. Conti ordered UPMC and West Penn to give each other by the end of July the documents they provided to the Justice Department during its investigation of the situation. She also ordered UPMC to provide the same documents to Royal Mile Co., a Whitehall-based property management company that claims in a separate antitrust lawsuit that UPMC and Highmark conspired to drive up premiums. The judge ordered Highmark to follow the same schedule for turning over its Justice Department documents to Royal Mile, unless Highmark files a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, in which case it will get an extra 15 days to turn over the documents. In a related matter, Conti ordered the unsealing of a redacted copy of the agreement between Highmark and UPMC that UPMC filed when it made its motion to stay the case. Since the judge's order came late today, the document is not yet publicly available.

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