Benitez v. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority, No. 19-2145 (4th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the class action antitrust claims brought by plaintiff against the Hospital Authority. The court concluded that the Hospital Authority is a "special function governmental unit" under section 34(1)(B) of the Local Government Antitrust Act of 1984. The court explained that Sandcrest Outpatient Servs., P.A. v. Cumberland Cnty. Hosp. Sys., Inc., 853 F.2d 1139, 1142 (4th Cir. 1988), did not address, much less decide, the issues here. The court was unpersuaded that either the Act's text or the statutory interpretation principle noscitur a sociis supports plaintiff's contention that "special function governmental unit" as described in section 34(1)(B) applies only to governmental entities with certain powers and/or characteristics, which the Hospital Authority lacks. The court reasoned that there is no magic combination of powers that a governmental body must have to be classified as a "special function governmental unit," however those of the Hospital Authority readily qualify.
The court explained that the Hospital Authority is far more similar to the hospital in Sweeney v. Athens Regional Medical Center, than to the public trust hospital in Tarabishi v. McAlester Regional Hospital, 951 F.2d 1558 (10th Cir. 1991). Finally, the court rejected plaintiff's contention that, even if the Hospital Authority was a "local government" when it was established, it has outgrown its immunity. The court stated that the text of the Act asks only whether an organization qualifies as a "local government" as defined by the Act and that determination requires examining the state law applicable to the entity's creation. Therefore, the court agreed with the district court that the Hospital Authority is a "special function governmental unit" and is therefore a "local government" under the Act.