Posted by: Patricia Salkin | February 21, 2015

6th Circuit Court of Appeals Denies Injunctive Relief Barring Enforcement of a Statute Preventing the Opening of a Methadone Maintenance Clinic

Tri–Cities Holdings LLC and a group of individual plaintiffs (collectively “Plaintiffs”) wanted to open a methadone maintenance clinic to treat opiate-addicted individuals in the City of Johnson City, Tennessee. Tri–Cities obtained an option to lease property in the City, but the chosen location did not meet all the requirements of a section of the City’s zoning code applicable to methadone maintenance clinics. Plaintiffs appealed the district court’s orders that (1) failed to grant their motion for a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of certain Tennessee statutes and the Johnson City, Tennessee zoning code, based on the court’s conclusion that Plaintiffs’ substantive claims are not ripe; (2) failed to grant their motion for partial summary judgment for the same reason; and (3) dismissed without prejudice their state law claims against the Tennessee state defendants. The district court found that Plaintiffs’ facial challenge to the zoning ordinance was premature, and invited them to reopen the case when Tri–Cities obtained a decision on its certificate of need (“CON”) and license applications. Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency (“HSDA”) then held a public hearing on Tri–Cities’s application for a certificate of need and denied the application.

The Sixth Circuit considered four factors in reviewing the district court’s order denying injunctive relief: whether Plaintiffs have shown a strong likelihood of success on the merits; whether Plaintiffs would suffer irreparable injury without the injunction; whether issuance of the injunction would cause substantial harm to others; and whether the public interest would be served by the issuance of the injunction. As to the likelihood of success, the court agreed with the district court that the Plaintiff’s claims were not ripe. This is because if Tri–Cities’s state administrative appeal is ultimately unsuccessful, it cannot open its clinic, and until that appeal process is complete, the court cannot reasonably determine if Tri–Cities was denied a CON due to some Catch 22 dilemma, or whether the denial was based on issues having nothing to do with Johnson City’s zoning ordinance or disability discrimination. Because the claim was not yet ripe, it was not found to have a likelihood of success.

Next the court examined, whether Plaintiffs would suffer irreparable injury without the injunction. Plaintiffs contended that individual opiate addicts lack methadone treatment, and must drive long distances to obtain that treatment. The driving of long distances, however, was not found to be irreparable harm caused by the denial, without prejudice, of their request for injunctive relief. Finally, the court found the public interest went against the granting of an injunction because the State of Tennessee and the public “have a strong interest in regulation of medical facilities consistent with Tennessee’s health plan and that a CON is granted only when the need for the facility is properly established. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction was denied.

Tri-Cities Holdings LLC v Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency, 2015 WL 364004 (6th Cir. CA 1/29/2015)

The opinion can be accessed at: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCOURTS-ca6-14-05456/pdf/USCOURTS-ca6-14-05456-0.pdf


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