Erlanger Health System attorneys have asked a federal judge: Make our counterparts at Hutcheson Medical Center write us back, please.
On Monday, the Chattanooga hospital filed a motion in U.S. District Court, hoping it can force Hutcheson officials to give up more documents as part of the lawsuits pending between the two hospitals. Erlanger has been waiting for the documents since Feb. 23, when its attorneys filed a "request to produce."
They asked for 25 sets of documents and expected each set to include emails, letters, meeting minutes and contracts. Instead, Hutcheson gave Erlanger a total of nine documents. Hutcheson's attorneys said Erlanger isn't allowed to get the rest or that the documents don't exist.
In response, Erlanger officials told Judge Harold Murphy that Hutcheson is lying.
"It is inconceivable that — in a lawsuit of this size and of this complexity — a named party would have less than 10 non-privileged responsive documents," attorney Edward Marshall wrote Monday.
Erlanger managed Hutcheson from 2011 to 2013, giving the North Georgia hospital a $20 million line of credit. Last year, after Hutcheson officials ended the agreement, Erlanger filed a lawsuit against Hutcheson, demanding its money back.
Hutcheson countersued. Its lawyers said Erlanger had intentionally mismanaged Hutcheson, hoping to drive the hospital into debt, making it possible for Erlanger to then buy Hutcheson. Both cases are still pending, and Hutcheson filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November.
Erlanger has requested information it believes it can use in court to prove its officials did not mismanage Hutcheson. Erlanger lawyers have asked for documents showing:
' Why Hutcheson entered into a management agreement with Erlanger in 2011;
' Why Hutcheson accepted the $20 million line of credit from Erlanger;
' Why elected officials in Catoosa and Walker counties agreed to eventually pay Erlanger back if Hutcheson couldn't;
' And the ways Hutcheson has tried to refinance its debt since 2008.
Hutcheson's attorney, State Rep. Tom Weldon, R-Ringgold, told Erlanger in April that it could only have nine documents. The rest were protected by attorney-client privilege, accountant-client privilege and common interest privilege, Weldon said. He did not say specifically why each document is protected.
Marshall told Murphy that Weldon's response is too generic. Also, Weldon needs to give Erlanger a "privilege log" — a list showing why Erlanger can't have each specific document, Marshall said.
He also told Murphy that Weldon has been difficult to communicate with as he tries to understand why Erlanger can't get some of this information.
On May 12, according to court records, Marshall emailed Weldon and complained about the Hospital Authority, Hutcheson's governing body with board members appointed by the elected officials in Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties.
"The content of the (Hutcheson) Hospital Authority's production to date has been extremely paltry," he wrote. "We would ask that you please explain what the Hospital Authority has done (or is doing) to locate responsive documents."
Marshall asked Weldon to respond by May 18 and, on May 19, having heard no answer, he emailed Weldon again, then again on June 2 and again on June 10.
On June 11, Weldon wrote back: "I expect to forward a response to you by Tuesday, June 16."
On June 24, still waiting for a response, Marshall emailed Weldon again. If he did not get more information from Weldon soon, he would file a court motion, he said in the email.
The next day, Weldon said he would give Marshall an answer soon: "I expect to get a complete response to your correspondence by the close of business on Monday, June 29."
On July 2, Weldon sent Marshall another email: "I will get that to you today."
Marshall has still not heard back.
Contact Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.