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Terms of contracts between private ambulance companies and local private hospitals participating in the New York City Fire Department’s 911 emergency system should not be considered “trade secrets” and cannot be redacted from documents requested under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), a state appellate court has decided. The union representing the city’s emergency medical technicians and paramedics had requested from the fire department copies of all contracts since 1997 between any private ambulance company operating in the 911 system and a number of private hospitals. The contracts were provided to the fire department because the private ambulance companies are not themselves signatories of the department’s standard 911 agreement. After consulting with the hospitals, the department, which is not a party to the contracts, furnished the union with copies of the contracts from which had been redacted those portions dealing with pricing, patient billing, insurance and internal hospital quality assurance programs. The fire department argued that disclosure of those terms, the result of lengthy negotiations, could hurt the competitive positions of the hospitals in any future contracts for similar services. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman agreed with the fire department in a February 2004 decision but the Appellate Division, First Department, yesterday held in In re Patrick Bahnken v. New York City Fire Department , 4633, that a further showing on competitive injury was required. The decision will be published Wednesday. Though records containing trade secrets are exempt from disclosure under FOIL, a three-judge majority held that the fire department’s trade secrets argument was “speculative and unsupported by any evidentiary documentation.” The majority, which included Justices Angela Mazzarelli, John W. Sweeney and James M. Catterson, further noted that none of the hospitals whose contracts were requested had intervened in the case. “Clearly the hospitals themselves would have seen fit to intervene if this issue were as crucial to their well-being as argued by respondent,” the majority wrote. “Their declination to do so speaks for itself.” Justice David Friedman dissented, arguing that price terms should remain redacted from the contracts. He agreed with the fire department that disclosure of such terms could hurt the hospitals in future negotiations with ambulance services. He said such potential harm was self-evident. “[I]t is difficult to see what further specificity and evidentiary detail are needed to demonstrate that disclosure of price terms would cause the hospitals competitive injury by damaging their bargaining positions,” Justice Friedman wrote. Local 2507 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents paramedics who work for the city fire department, has been critical of many hospitals’ increased use of private ambulance services. Vivian Brady-Phillips of Gladstein, Reif & Meginniss, who represented the union in seeking the documents, said members wanted to make sure the contracts conformed with relevant laws and regulations. The fire department was represented by the Corporation Counsel’s office. � Anthony Lin can be reached at [email protected] .

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