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Vital Care files suit against county

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By Jennifer Caldwell

Vital Care Transportation, LLC, has a beef with the Campbell County Board of Commissioners and this spells litigation for Campbell County government. 

Vital Care is asking for over $1 million in damages because of this dispute.

When commissioners voted last month to send correspondence requesting the LaFollette City Council not consider the 50-50 split of ambulance calls within the city between the county’s ambulance service and the private company, Vital Care had a response of its own.

Last Wednesday attorney David H. Dunaway filed suit in circuit court on behalf of Vital Care against Campbell County government. The suit alleges that by sending the a letter to the council opposing the division of emergency calls with Vital Care, county officials acted improperly in that the correspondence was intended to restrain trade. 

In addition, the filing alleges that actions taken by the commission caused “interference with prospective economic advantage” and were in violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act.

Vital Care began providing ambulance services in March 2008. Since that time the private company asserts it has had a business relationship with not only the city of LaFollette, but also the citizens of the county. 

According to the complaint, this “pre-existing” relationship is the result of “past medical services rendered.” 

Because commissioners allegedly had knowledge of this pre-existing relationship, the complaint asserts that its action intended to “interfere and/or otherwise terminate the prospective business expectation and relationship through improper motive and improper means.”

In the complaint Vital Care offers that creating competition for the Campbell Ambulance Service will “bring charges down to what may otherwise be reasonable.” However, should competition be eliminated the price of emergency care will increase.

Because the commission, an agent of the county, requested the LaFollette City Council refrain from allowing Vital Care to receive half of the municipality’s emergency ambulance calls, it is guilty of “restraint of trade,” according to the documents filed by Dunaway.

In addition to allegations of restraint of trade, the complaint also characterizes the action taken by commissioners as “injurious to the public” stating it could cause an illegal interruption of emergency medical services.

Language in the suit also contends that through its action, the county commission was attempting to “obtain its own advancement at the expense and in the oppression of the public” and in doing so it violates the “practices of fair and free competition and free enterprise.”

Vital Care also alleges that the impact of what it has determined to be the “wrongful” actions of the commission, the company has or will in the future suffer damages including lost profits and damage to its business reputation.

As a result of the commission’s attempt to persuade LaFollette City Council members to limit Vital Care’s business, the complaint suggests commissioners have placed budget concerns for the Campbell County Ambulance Service above the safety and lives of the citizens of LaFollette.

According to the complaint, through correspondence to the city council, the county’s governing body is attempting to eliminate the ambulance service used by E911 when the county’s ambulance services is unavailable, calling the action a “reckless disregard for the life and safety of LaFollette’s community.”

The suit requests an award of compensatory damages not to exceed $300,000 and punitive damages not to exceed $1 million.

 

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