US health insurer Cigna said it has notched a win in its legal battle with rival and one-time prospective merger partner Anthem.

A judge in Delaware on Thursday denied Anthem’s bid to enjoin Cigna from walking away from its proposed $48bn acquisition, Reuters reported, although implementation of the decision was stayed until Monday to give Anthem a chance to appeal.

Cigna confirmed the decision in an emailed statement on Thursday, adding: “We look forward to closing this final chapter.”

The two companies exchanged lawsuits in the wake of a separate ruling earlier this year that blocked Cigna’s proposed $48bn acquisition of Anthem, after US antitrust regulators ruled that its effect “may be substantially to lessen competition” in “what is already a highly concentrated market”.

Shortly after that decision, Cigna sued Anthem to seek a reverse $1.85bn termination fee and additional damages “in an amount exceeding $13bn” including lost shareholder value, accusing Anthem of not using its “reasonable best efforts to secure regulatory approval for the transaction”.

Anthem shot back that Cigna had no right to unilaterally pull the plug, even after the court decision blocking their tie-up. It has filed a petition asking the US Supreme Court to review that ruling.

Anthem did not return a request for comment on Thursday. Both insurers’ shares were flat in after-hours trading.

Cigna and Anthem aren’t the only mega-insurers to see their tie-up plans thwarted by courts this year. Humana and Aetna also had their proposed merger blocked by a federal judge, although their subsequent break-up has been far less litigious — Aetna said in February it would cough up a $1bn breakup fee for Humana.

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