When Hutcheson Medical Center and Erlanger Health System went their separate ways last year, one attorney likened the decision to breaking up but remaining friends.

But Erlanger's decision to file a federal lawsuit against the North Georgia hospital this week has "significantly changed the tenor and nature of the relationship," said the same attorney, Chad Young, who represents Catoosa County, Ga.

Both Catoosa and Walker counties were also named in the lawsuit Erlanger has filed against the Hospital Authority of Walker, Dade and Catoosa counties -- the governing body over Hutcheson -- in an effort to seek repayment for $20.5 million in loans that Erlanger claims Hutcheson officials have "expressly stated it will not pay."

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