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Hospital in Court Again

The court battle over the proposed Broadlands Regional Medical Center between the hospital and the county continued last week as lawyers representing both sides appeared before Judge Thomas D. Horne.

The Northern Virginia Community Hospital (NVCH) filed suit last year challenging the Board of Supervisors' ruling that denied the Comprehensive Plan amendments (CPAM) and rezonings needed to begin construction of the hospital.

Horne ruled against the county's motion to dismiss one of the counts included in HCA's lawsuit, but requested that the lawyers work together to consolidate what is currently two suits under one comprehensive complaint.

"I'd like to get these cases into shape before summary judgment," Horne said.

THE LAWSUIT ORIGINALLY filed on behalf of the hospital included seven counts.

At a previous hearing, the judge threw out the first three counts, stating there was no way for the plaintiff to win them, Mark Looney, one of the lawyers representing the hospital said.

The first three counts claimed that the approval of a Certificate of Public Need by the state's health commissioner preempted the county's ability to deny the application, the board was creating a monopoly with its denial and that the board's decision did not follow due process.

The fourth count of the lawsuit was also stricken at the earlier hearing, but the hospital was given the opportunity to replead the count.

The count states that the board "acted with an intent to discriminate against NVCH in favor of protecting [Loudoun Hospital Inova] from competition with NVCH."

It was the renewed fourth count and counts five, six and seven that Horne requested be consolidated into one complaint.

In April, Horne ruled the final three counts, which claim the board's decision was arbitrary and that the hospital should be a by-right use for the proposed site, could proceed to trial.

IN COURT Thursday, June 22, Bruce M. Blanchard, attorney for the county, argued that the fourth count should be dismissed and stricken because it includes the allegations in three dismissed counts.

"There are duplicate counts in multiple cases being argued by the same party in the same court," he said. "We don't object to consolidation, but even with consolidation there are multiple counts."

Robert Veitch, lead counsel for NVCH, said that one of the complaints dealt with challenging the CPAM and the other dealt with the zoning applications.

"We are not trying to litigate the issues twice," he said.

Blanchard said he was concerned that inclusion of the allegations from the first three counts would force the county to defend those counts again.

"I just want to clarify that the court ruling does not allow that," he said. "That [opposing council] aren't back dooring it."

Blanchard went on to state that he did not believe there were any facts to support the arbitrary and capricious allegations of count six.

"We don't consider them allegations," Veitch said. "We stand behind them."

Horne told Blanchard that the dismissal of the first three counts did not prevent the plaintiff from presenting their facts.

"I didn't strike factual allegations," he said. "I sustained the [dismissal] that there was not enough evidence. That doesn't rule out their opportunity to present facts."

Horne also stated that he believed the first three counts were only being repeated to preserve the court's record.

FOLLOWING THE consolidation of the two complaints, both sides will be back in court Aug. 4 to argue the fourth count. The final three counts will be proceeding to trial at a later date.

While the consolidation extends the time before the hospital could possibly begin construction, lawyers for NVCH were optimistic.

"We feel pretty good," Looney said. "The judge reiterated that we could move forward on the balance of the case."