Dorsata sues athenahealth, Unified Women's Healthcare claiming deceptive practices

Women's health-focused EHR player Dorsata alleges athenahealth and Unified Women's Health worked jointly to diminish its business and steal its trade secrets.
By Jessica Hagen
01:22 pm

Photo: STEVE DEBENPORT/Getty Images

Maternity-care management platform Dorsata filed a lawsuit in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, Civil Court yesterday against healthcare technology company athenahealth and nationwide women's health company Unified Women's Healthcare, alleging 11 counts against the providers, including theft of trade secrets, unjust enrichment, breach of contract and tortious interference with current customers. 

Dorsata offers a tool designed to help prevent variations in medical care during maternity and to decrease the rate of preventable complications by using point-of-care technology and clinical data. 

In the complaint, Dorsata, Inc. vs. Athenahealth Group, Inc., searchable here, Dorsata claims that, in 2021, Unified purchased Women's Health USA, an existing client of Dorsata. After the acquisition, athena approached Dorsata proposing the two entities work together to pursue a broader relationship with Unified by creating an integrated solution to pitch to the company.

According to Dorsata, after signing a nondisclosure agreement, and amid discussions of athena's possible acquisition of the EHR player, it provided trade secrets to athena and the two companies made oral agreements to approach Unified as a joint venture.

Dorsata subsequently developed a software product dubbed vU that it and athena would pitch together to Unified. 

Dorsata alleges that athena, meanwhile, was creating its own version of vU to pitch to Unified, without Dorsata's knowledge. It simultaneously convinced the EHR player to sign a promissory note with an exclusivity clause, meaning Dorsata was prevented from conducting business with athena competitors.

Dorsata had needed a cash infusion for its business, and athena provided $6 million to the company, the terms of which were addressed in the promissory note.

Dorsata says Unified aided and abetted athena's actions, and the two companies cut Dorsata out of the deal, resulting in, among other incurrences, difficulty for Dorsata to pay back its $6 million due to athena by 2025.

Dorsata also alleges athena is eliciting input from the company's existing customers, requesting that companies compare its uV-type product to Dorsata's and that athena is gaining feedback about how to enhance its offering.

Dorsata brought nine causes of action against athena, including unfair and deceptive acts and practices, breach of oral contract, breach of fiduciary duty, common law fraud, unjust enrichment, theft of trade secrets, tortious interference with current customers, breach of nondisclosure agreement and commercial disparagement. 

The company brought two counts against Unified, including aiding and abetting a breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract.

Dorsata is seeking damages incurred from a loss of expected profits, the value of injury to reputation, a loss of company valuation, the value of future lost business and damages for unlawfully gained commercial marketplace advantage. 

It is also requesting the court find the promissory note was "a fraudulent artifice intended to prevent Dorsata from competing in the marketplace" and, therefore, prevent athena from seeking to collect the $6 million. 

"We’ve been severely damaged, and we hope the court will rectify the situation," David Fairbrothers, cofounder and CEO of Dorsata, told MobiHealthNews in an email.  

In an email to MobiHealthNews, athenahealth said it doesn't comment on pending litigation.