Bona Law files antitrust lawsuit against Huntington Beach, California for Monopolizing Ambulance Market

Attorneys Jarod Bona and Aaron Gott filed an antitrust complaint against the City of Huntington Beach on behalf of AmeriCare Ambulance in the U.S. District Court for the District of Central California August 29, 2016. You can view the antitrust complaint against the City here.

The complaint alleges that Huntington Beach violated Section 2 of the Sherman Act when it ignored California law requiring competition in the prehospital emergency medical transportation market and instead established its own fire department as the city’s exclusive provider.

Local governments are only entitled to immunity from the antitrust laws if, at a minimum, they act within the bounds of a clearly articulated policy of the state from which they derive their authority. AmeriCare alleges that the City of Huntington Beach defied state law. California law provides that state and county authorities may designate areas as exclusive or non-exclusive. Exclusive areas must either use a competitive-bidding process or be subject to a grandfathering exception that does not apply to Huntington Beach. Orange County Emergency Medical Service designated Huntington Beach’s zone as non-exclusive, meaning any county-licensed provider can request to take calls in the area.

AmeriCare also alleges that, as a market participant, Huntington Beach is not eligible to 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 wrote on the topic.

According to Jarod Bona, “This case is about local government overreach in the face of a California policy of competition. To its credit, California has established a complex statutory scheme requiring either open competition or competition for the contract in almost all circumstances for ambulance services to ensure that California’s citizens receive pre-hospital emergency medical services and transport in a manner consistent with California’s statutes and regulations.” Bona explains that “the City of Huntington Beach eschewed the State of California’s statutory requirement for competition and instead monopolized the market for itself, offering the services at a higher price and lower quality than private competitors, including our client, would have offered.”

In speaking with reporters from Global Competition Review and the Orange County Register about the case, Mr. Gott explained that “The City of Huntington Beach circumvented state and federal policies and put its pecuniary interests ahead of emergency patients. This lawsuit is simply about restoring competition in Huntington Beach as Congress and the California legislature intended.”

The Orange County Register, Global Competition Review, and the LA Times have reported on the case.

Bona Law specializes in holding state and local government entities accountable under the antitrust laws. Unfortunately, all too often government entities believe that they have a free pass when it comes to distorting and defeating marketplace competition. Bona Law helps counsel and represents clients that are injured when government actors engage in anticompetitive conduct, which happens all too often.

Bona Law recently filed an amicus brief in the US Supreme Court’s most recent antitrust case involving claims against a government entity. In addition, Jarod Bona, of The Antitrust Attorney Blog, commonly writes about anticompetitive government conduct and what to do about it.