Ambulance Market Monopoly Lawsuits to Test Municipalities' Liability Under Federal Antitrust Law

This fall, Bona Law attorneys Jarod Bona and Aaron Gott filed twelve antitrust complaints against municipalities in Orange County, California for monopolization of the prehospital emergency medical services and transport markets in violation of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act on behalf of AmeriCare MedServices, Inc., an ambulance provider that was excluded from each of the twelve markets. In eight cases, the complaints also named CARE Ambulance Service, Inc.:

As the complaints argue, local governments are only entitled to immunity from the federal antitrust laws if they act within the bounds of a clearly articulated policy of the state from which they derive their authority. They do not get a free pass to violate federal law with impunity.

The California EMS Act sets forth a policy in favor of competition except under limited circumstances that AmeriCare argues do not apply in these cases. In fact, the California Emergency Medical Services Agency and the Orange County Emergency Medical Service designated each of the relevant zones as competitive, “non-exclusive” zones; the cities have defied those designations.

AmeriCare also alleges that, as market participants, the cities cannot claim immunity from the antitrust laws. For more on the market-participant exception to state-action immunity from the antitrust laws, you can read a law review article that Jarod Bona co-authored on the topic. For similar reasons, AmeriCare argues that the Local Government Antitrust Act of 1984, which limits remedies available in cases concerning municipalities, does not apply.

The cities and CARE have since filed motions to dismiss arguing, among other things, that they are entitled to the state-action immunity. The court will hear the cities’ motions March 3 and CARE’s motions April 7 in Courtroom 10A at the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Santa Ana.

Bona Law has significant experience in holding state and local government entities accountable under the antitrust laws. Bona Law recently filed an amicus brief in the US Supreme Court’s most recent antitrust case involving the state-action immunity.  Jarod Bona also writes about anticompetitive government conduct on The Antitrust Attorney Blog.

Bona Law PC is a boutique law firm that specializes in antitrust, complex litigation, and appeals. You can contact us here.