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Saginaw County v. Stat Emergency Medical Services, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

January 10, 2020

Saginaw County, Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
STAT Emergency Medical Services, Inc., Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued: December 11, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Flint. No. 4:17-cv-10275-Terrence George Berg, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Douglas W.Van Essen, SILVER & VAN ESSEN, P.C., Grand Rapids, Michigan, for Appellant.

          Derek S. Wilczynski, BLANCO WILCZYNSKI PLLC, Troy, Michigan, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Douglas W.Van Essen, Elliot J. Gruszka, SILVER & VAN ESSEN, P.C., Grand Rapids, Michigan, for Appellant.

          Derek S. Wilczynski, Orlando L. Blanco, BLANCO WILCZYNSKI PLLC, Troy, Michigan, for Appellee.

          Before: SUTTON, NALBANDIAN, and READLER, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          SUTTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         By ordinance, Saginaw County permits just one ambulance service to operate within its borders. STAT Emergency Medical Services is not that ambulance service. It objects to the exclusivity. STAT has complied with all of the Michigan requirements for providing ambulance services in the State, and proceeded several years ago to offer its services in the county anyway. Rather than enforce its ordinance against STAT, Saginaw County filed this declaratory judgment action in federal court against the company, seeking a ruling that the County's chosen means of delivering local ambulance services complies with state law, the Sherman Antitrust Act, and the U.S. Constitution. The district court dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction. Because federal courts have the power to tell parties what the law is, Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137, 177 (1803), not what it might be in a potential enforcement action by the government, Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 101-02 (1998), no jurisdiction exists. We affirm.

         I.

         Located in central Michigan, Saginaw County is home to nearly 200, 000 residents. Under local law, a single company provides the county's ambulance services. The contractor responds to residents' medical emergencies from start to finish. It handles the 911 calls, operates the county's emergency dispatch service, and staffs the ambulances. The County signed its first contract along these lines in 2009, when it selected Mobile Medical Response for the job. As is often true of exclusivity arrangements, the two sides benefitted from the deal. The County guaranteed Mobile Medical the exclusive right to operate within its borders. In return, Mobile Medical pledged to serve all eight of Saginaw County's cities and incorporated villages, and, perhaps most importantly, all twenty-seven of its rural townships.

         In 2011, STAT Emergency Medical Services, a competing ambulance company, entered the Saginaw market. It initially provided only patient-transport services for insurer Health Plus as part of a contract that covered six Michigan counties. But STAT's work for Health Plus caught the attention of several municipalities dissatisfied with Mobile Medical's response times and fees. Birch Run, a township within Saginaw ...


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