STATEMENT: Court to allow jury to hear crucial evidence in Sutter Health antitrust case

Media Contacts

Appeals panel reverses decision to withhold information about company’s history of anti-competitive practices

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled Tuesday that a court case against Sutter Health, one of the 40 largest hospital systems in the United States, may proceed, with plaintiffs now able to divulge key evidence barred from the initial trial.

The case, Sidibe v. Sutter Health, alleges that anti-competitive practices led to higher cost health insurance premiums and copays for more than 3 million employers and consumers in Northern California. However, in the initial trial, which ended in June 2021, the judge ruled that the plaintiffs could not tell the jury many examples of Sutter’s historical actions. 

While the original judge deemed the health system’s earlier business decisions  strategies irrelevant to the case before it, the plaintiffs argued to the appeals court that those actions contained “critical evidence [that] compromised the jury’s assessment” and that the judge’s decision “effectively allow[ed] Sutter Health to avoid compensating fully insured consumers.” U.S. PIRG filed an amicus brief on behalf of the plaintiffs in October 2022.

In response to the new ruling, PIRG’s Senior Director of Health Care Campaigns Patricia Kelmar released the following statement:

“In a proper court case, we hear the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In the original trial of Sutter Health, jurors never heard the whole truth.

“The Court of Appeals ruled that a jury deserves to hear evidence about Sutter’s past anti-competitive indiscretions, notably, consolidating facilities and manipulating contracts to drive up prices for health services. Americans deserve high value health care, not artificially inflated bills charged by powerful health systems with too much market power.”