Belhaven’s case against Vidant will likely be dismissed

Published 7:46 pm Thursday, October 8, 2015

According to reports, Superior Court Judge Stuart Albright has decided to throw out the claims filed by the Town of Belhaven and the state NAACP against Vidant Health and Pantego Creek LLC, claims that allege breach of contract, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and unfair trade practices.

The decision will not be made final until Judge Albright issues the ruling in writing.

“The judge has not yet entered an order regarding Vidant’s motion to dismiss the Belhaven case. We expect an order to be entered within the next few days,” said Christine Mackey, communications manager at Vidant.

The expected decision follows a Tuesday court date at the Beaufort County Courthouse in which Vidant and Pantego Creek presented arguments as to why the judge should dismiss the case, and the plaintiffs defended their decision to file.

Legal representatives from Vidant argued they had not broken the contract with Belhaven when they decided to close Vidant Pungo Hospital on July 1, 2014, due to the facility losing millions of dollars each year, and subsequently turn the property over to Pantego Creek. Vidant attorney Katie Taylor also said that the medical company did not misrepresent their intentions regarding the hospital’s closure, as Vidant feels they were upfront about that danger.

But attorneys for the town and the NAACP said the medical company closed up shop and left the town without vital medical care, a move that put minorities and poor individuals at a disadvantage.

“Certainly we’ve met our burden of pleading,” Belhaven attorney Dahmian Blue said in court on Tuesday. “We believe that we ought to be able to move forward.”

The plaintiffs also said they did not feel Vidant was upfront about its plans to close the hospital, and they think the company’s efforts to help since have been inadequate.

To help accommodate medical needs in the area, Vidant has begun construction on a 24-7, multispecialty clinic in Belhaven, and while it will not offer emergency care, it will have helicopter access to transport patients to another facility if needed.

The Town of Belhaven has made continual attempts to reopen the hospital since its closure, and besides the court case, it is now in the process of obtaining the property from Pantego Creek LLC under eminent domain. The town is also working to obtain loans to help cover the costs of reopening the facility.

Mayor Adam O’Neal said he is not allowed to comment on the judge’s decision as of yet, but will give comments after the decision is final.

Efforts to contact members of  Pantego Creek LLC were unsuccessful.