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EDPA Grants Summary Judgment Against Medical Laboratory Company Alleging Tortious Interference by Independence Blue Cross

In Medical Diagnostic Laboratories, LLC. v. Independence Blue Cross, Medical Diagnostic Laboratories, LLC, (“MDL”) alleged that Independence Blue Cross (“IBC”) violated antitrust laws and was engaging in unfair competition by tortuously interfering its existing and proposed business relationships. WL 4899441 *1 (E.D. Pa. October 9, 2018). IBC filed a Motion to Dismiss that alleged MDL failed to state a claim. The Eastern District of Pennsylvania denied the motion and allowed MDL to proceed to discovery. After discovery, IBC filed a Motion for Summary Judgment which was granted. In its suit, MDL alleged that IBC had threatened doctors within its network to stop using MDL. MDL further alleged that several doctors that preferred using MDL’s laboratory to perform testing no longer did so after they received threats from IBC.

In Pennsylvania, to state a claim for tortious interference with a prospective contractual relationship, the plaintiff must prove: “(1) a prospective contract between the plaintiff and a third party; (2) a purposeful act by the defendant taken with the specific intent to harm the existing relation or prevent a prospective relation from occurring; (3) the absence of privilege or justification on the part of the defendant; (4) actual legal damage because of the defendant’s conduct and (5) reasonable likelihood that the relationship would have occurred but for the defendant’s interference.” Medical Diagnostic Laboratories, LLC., WL4899441 at *3; Brokerage Concepts, Inc. v. U.S. Healthcare, Inc., 140 F.3d 494, 530 (3d Cir. 1998); Ira G. Steffy & Son, Inc. v. Citizens Bank of Pa., 7 A.3d 278, 288–89 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2010).

The Court found no evidence in the record that MDL established prospective contractual relations with any of the providers it identified, nor any evidence that IBC specifically threatened any of these providers. Since MDL failed to establish the requisite prospective contractual relationships with any of the doctors which it alleged IBC threatened, MDL could not prove all the elements of its tortious interference claim. Upon failing to prove all the elements necessary to show that IBC was tortuously interfering with MDL’s prospective business relationships, with doctors in IBC’s coverage plan, MDL asserted that IBC’s tortious interference was really aimed towards prospective clients, not the doctors. The Court noted that for tortious interference to be present in this situation, the prospective contract needed to involve physician relationships not prospective clients. Therefore the Court granted IBC’s Motion for Summary Judgment since MDL failed to prove the requisite elements under their tortious interference claim.

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