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Labaton Sucharow Takes on General Electric in Class Action Over Anesthesia Machines

GE Office Sign, Washington, D.C.

GE Office Sign, Washington, D.C. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

Lawyers from antitrust litigation firm Labaton Sucharow have filed a prospective class action against General Electric and two of its health care subsidiaries, alleging the Boston-based company is trying to freeze out independent firms that service the GE gas anesthesia machines.

Gregory Asciolla, one of the three lead attorneys from the New York City-based law firm, is co-chairman of Labaton Sucharow's antitrust and competition litigation practice. In that role, Asciolla focuses on representing businesses and public pension funds in complex antitrust and commodities class actions. He also represents clients in global antitrust matters involving price-fixing, benchmark and commodities manipulation, pay-for-delay and other anti-competitive practices.

Now Asciolla has joined with Labaton's Jay Himes and Karin Garvey in taking on GE on behalf of customers, such as clinics, hospitals and doctor groups, that use its machines. Also representing the plaintiff are Daniel Sonneborn and Eric Penley of Preti Flaherty Beliveau & Pachios; Charles Barrett and Benjamin Aaron of Neal & Harwell; and Robert King of The King Law Firm.

The named plaintiff in the lawsuit, filed March 14 in federal court in Boston, is the Monroe County Health Care Authority in Alabama.

"We are suing GE for engaging in exclusionary practices for servicing their anesthesia machines and for their monopolization of the market," Asciolla said Friday. "Independent ISOs independent service organizations who provide services to those machines in competition with GE are being closed out of the market, which is allowing GE to charge super competitive prices. The purpose of this suit is to stop the exclusionary conduct to allow ISOs to get into the market and to have healthy competition for the purchases of services."

Asciolla pointed to a 2017 federal jury finding that GE had monopolized the market and charged inflated prices as one reason the prospective class action filed last week could be settled sooner rather than later. ISOs brought the lawsuit, in which the jury found in their favor two years ago. The most recent lawsuit was filed on behalf of the customers, such as hospitals.

"Antitrust cases tend to take a long time to resolve, anywhere from four to 10 years," Asciolla said. "This one might be quicker, though, based on the fact that there was a jury verdict against GE already. It might speed things along."

In the 2017 case, GE failed in its motion to have the court set aside the jury's monopoly findings.

The latest lawsuit is replete with alleged examples of how GE monopolized its product, including a claim GE denied its ISOs training courses beginning in 2014.

"Furthermore, GE has demanded that ISOs seeking to enroll in training courses must undergo a burdensome process that requires them to disclose competitively sensitive information," the lawsuit reads. "As a result, ISOs have been effectively denied the necessary training for servicing GE gas anesthesia machines."

The lawsuit seeks class certification, unspecified monetary damages and to have GE permanently enjoined from continuing its alleged exclusionary conduct.

Representing GE is Al Pfeiffer of Latham & Watkins. Pfeiffer did not respond to a request for comment.

A GE representative emailed a statement Friday suggesting no wrongdoing on its part.

"We are proud to deliver life-saving technologies and services to our customers," the company said. "While we don't comment on pending litigation, we believe our actions have been appropriate."

The case will be heard in front of Judge Richard Stearns.