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Discovery reopened in Thompson suit

ALBANY, Ga. -- An order signed by Dougherty Superior Court Judge Stephen Goss earlier this week has reopened discovery in the case Dr. Corleen Thompson filed last year against the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County regarding its purchase of the former Palmyra Medical Center.

The order, filed Monday morning, reopens the discovery period through Dec. 31.

“This gives us the opportunity to submit discovery and take deposition,” explained Bo Dorough, Thompson’s attorney.

Counsel for the Hospital Authority has requested from Goss a certificate for immediate review from the Georgia Court of Appeals in order to challenge the ruling.

If that request is denied, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital will be added as a party to the suit, Dorough said.

Ed Wilkin of Perry and Walters, speaking on behalf of the Hospital Authority, confirmed that such a request had been made. He would not comment on the case, other than to say: “This ruling he (Goss) made doesn’t reflect the merits of the case. All it does is reopen it for discovery so a ruling can be made on the merits.”

On July 23, Thompson’s motion for a temporary restraining order to enjoin the execution of a lease for the hospital — now known as Phoebe North — by Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital was denied. The lease became effective on Aug. 1.

Requests for immediate injunctive relief and an interlocutory appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court following that ruling also were denied, court documents show.

The Hospital Authority has argued that the lawsuit is now moot because the lease transaction has been executed. In the original complaint that Thompson filed, an alternative ground of relief requested that any lease entered into be set aside if initial temporary injunctive relief were not granted.

The Hospital Authority later filed a motion to dismiss the case, which was denied, documents show.

Two months following a Feb. 19 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court reversing the decision from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that had allowed the $195 million acquisition to go through, counsel for both sides appeared at a status conference hearing regarding Thompson’s case, documents show.

On June 11, an administrative law judge temporarily removed from adjudication the Federal Trade Commission’s case opposing the acquisition to discuss a possible settlement.

Dorough said he and Thompson still plan to maintain the track they are on — contending the Hospital Authority violated both federal and state laws when it followed through on the purchase.