The litigation just keeps expanding.

The Henderson County Hospital Authority was one of the defendants in last week’s federal lawsuit filed by the East Texas Regional Health Facilities.

The board’s attorney, Martin Bennett, has now filed an original response to the Hospital’s original complaint.

Its words go like this:

Original answer of defendant Henderson County Hospital Authority and Henderson County Hospital Authority’s cross-claim against Henderson County, Texas and Henderson County Hospital Authority’s counterclaim against East Texas Regional Health Facilities.

That’s lawyer talk— so nobody will misunderstand.

In case you still do, though, the Authority’s countersuit against the Hospital, among other things, seeks to protect the Authority from any exposure associated with the upcoming litigation. It asks that the Authority be given total indemnity by East Texas Regional Health Facilities (ETRHF) and a permanent injunction against the county for any damages that may be awarded in the litigation.

It also asks that the plaintiff be awarded the declaratory judgment against the county it requests and that the Authority should not be declared in default of the terms or conditions of its lease agreements with the county or hospital.

Everyone included in the suit has 20 days to respond, and the Authority is the first to do so, having filed the cross-claim against Henderson County Monday and the counter-claim against ETRHF on the same day.

Henderson County, and its Judge David Holstein and Attorney James Owen haven’t, as yet, filed their respective responses to the hospital suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas Tyler Division.

Both are expected to do so in the next few days.

The commissioners court, by a 3-2 vote, instructed County Judge David Holstein last April to hire an outside attorney for this matter, which he eventually did when Charles Clark was hired.

Last December, Clark sent the Authority a default notice, basically agreeing with Owen’s earlier findings.

The Authority Board attempted to get on the commissioners court agenda last month with a response to those claims. They would have shown the Authority in agreement with the hospital — that the defaults were not justified.

But Holstein refused to put its representatives on the agenda until after the commissioners court could meet in executive session.

After that executive session, the commissioners court voted unanimously to tell the Authority Board that it should take its findings to the county’s outside attorney (Charles Clark), rather than present them in commissioners court.

A few days later, on March 23, the East Texas Regional Health Facilities filed suit, naming Judge David Holstein, James Owen, Henderson County, Texas and the Henderson County Hospital Authority as defendants.

The first response to that suit shows the Authority agreeing that the letters of Nov. 24, 2004 (by Owens) and Nov. 30, 2005 (by Clark), “wrongfully and incorrectly alleged that ETRHF is in default of the 1984 sublease and the 1990 financing agreement.”

But the Authority Board also made it clear in assessing many of the paragraphs in the ETRHF suit that it did not have sufficient information to come to a belief about the alleged motivations for the actions of Owen and Holstein described in the suit.

Those allegations accuse the two elected officials of wrongly conspiring to interfere in the relationship between the Authority and the hospital, and of trying to confiscate property in violation of both the fifth and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The suit is asking for “punitive damages, attorney’s fees, costs of court, pre-judgment and post judgment interest as provided by law, a permanent injunction, and such other and further relief, both general and special, at law, or in equity, to which Plaintiff may show itself to be justified.”

“I’m very disappointed in our corporate citizen (ETMC Athens), that it’s about lawsuits with them, rather than securing quality health care here in the county,” Owen said when contacted Wednesday afternoon.

He had no response to the Authority Board’s cross claim against the county or its counterclaim against the hospital.

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e-mail alawler@athensreview.com

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