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UPMC obtains dismissal of Lanham Act claims

May 2012

Jones Day represented the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center ("UPMC") and eight of its subsidiary hospitals against allegations of false advertising, breach of contract, and tortious interference with contractual relations brought by insurer Highmark Inc. in connection with UPMC's "Keep Your Doctor" advertising campaign. In April 2011, after Highmark announced that it had agreed in principle to affiliate with West Penn Allegheny Hospital System, Inc. ("WPAHS"), UPMC declared that it would not renew its commercial insurance contracts with Highmark when they expired in June 2012. UPMC contended that renewed commercial contracts with Highmark would allow Highmark, which insures the majority of lives in Western Pennsylvania, to steer patients to Highmark’s new hospital system, WPAHS. To ensure that its patients were informed of the upcoming changes to the Western Pennsylvania healthcare market, UPMC began an advertising campaign informing consumers that UPMC doctors and facilities would be out of Highmark's network starting July 1, 2012. Highmark then sued UPMC and eight of its subsidiary hospitals in federal court alleging that UPMC violated the Lanham Act by publishing false and misleading advertisements, breached the parties' current commercial contracts, and tortiously interfered with the same.

Highmark also sought a preliminary injunction to stop and change UPMC's advertisements. UPMC successfully opposed Highmark's request for a preliminary injunction on the briefs, arguing inter alia that a Lanham Act false advertising claim cannot be based on statements interpreting a contract. The magistrate judge agreed with UPMC's argument and concluded that Highmark was not likely to succeed on the merits of its Lanham Act false advertising claim. UPMC also filed a motion to dismiss that the magistrate judge held in abeyance pending final resolution of Highmark's preliminary injunction request by the district court. In May 2012, before final resolution of either Highmark's preliminary injunction or UPMC’s motion to dismiss, Highmark agreed to dismiss its claims with prejudice as part of a mediated settlement organized by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett.

Highmark, Inc. v. UPMC, Case 2:11 cv 00919 CB (W.D. Pa.)

For additional information about this matter, please contact: Leon F. DeJulius Jr.

Client(s): University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC)
Office(s): Pittsburgh