A Superior Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit that sought to halt the ongoing merger between Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft with Northern Light Health, the statewide health care organization that includes Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.
Gerald Nessmann, a Sebec resident who helps oversee the hospital as a member of its publicly elected board, filed a lawsuit last fall seeking to halt the merger and make more information about it publicly available.
A judge originally placed a restraining order on the merger after Nessmann filed his suit in October, preventing the hospital’s board from voting on the merger. But that order was soon dissolved, and the board of Hospital Administrative District No. 4 — the quasi-municipal entity that owns the hospital — voted to go forward with the merger last month.
In the meantime, the towns of Sebec and Monson also joined onto Nessmann’s lawsuit, which sought a preliminary injunction to halt the merger. Nessmann has questioned whether the merger is the best option for the district’s 13 member towns, given that its large reserve fund could be lost to the larger organization.
But Hospital Administrative District No. 4 filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which Superior Court Justice William Anderson granted on Wednesday of this week. That was the same day Northern Light’s board of directors agreed to go forward with the proposed merger.
In Anderson’s nine-page order, he made several arguments for dismissing the lawsuit, including that Nessmann didn’t have legal standing to file it and that because the merger still hasn’t happened, Nessmann can’t claim that any harm has been done by it.
“Declaring rights and responsibilities for a merger that may not even be completed or finalized in the form as presented to the Court now could put the Court at risk of issuing an advisory opinion,” Anderson wrote. “This would be improper.”
Under the terms of the merger agreement approved by the boards of Mayo and Northern Light, the Legislature must take action to allow the merger to go forward. The district’s charter now requires a vote of all member towns to dissolve, but the proposed legislation would eliminate that requirement. State regulators must also approve the deal.
Early on Thursday, Nessmann said that he still had not had time to carefully review the order dismissing his lawsuit. He didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.