In a surprising turn of events, a Las Vegas hospital filed a defamation lawsuit against an attorney who represents a client in a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital. Robert Cottle, a Nevada personal injury attorney, filed the medical malpractice lawsuit against Summerlin Hospital Medical Center in Las Vegas alleging negligence in regard to a tuberculosis outbreak at the hospital last year that affected patients, staff and visitors of the hospital. At least 60 people tested positive for tuberculosis.
The medical malpractice lawsuit names 15 doctors and 7 nurses. During a May 13 news conference, Cottle told the story of the plaintiff, Ruben White, who lost his wife Vanessa White and his twin daughters to tuberculosis. Vanessa died in July 2013 after giving birth to twin daughters, Emma and Abigail. Neither Vanessa nor her daughters were tested for tuberculosis even though Vanessa presented symptoms associated with the disease.
The hospital’s defamation lawsuit stems from comments made by Cottle, during the May 13 news conference. With regard to the medical malpractice lawsuit, Cottle stated that there may have been a motivation to find a cause for her condition besides tuberculosis. If the cause was a different infection, the state government would not be needed to investigate. He went on to say a tuberculosis diagnosis invites oversight and opens up a can of worms.
Cottle claims that his intention during the news conference was to make the community aware of the dangers of tuberculosis and provide information regarding the disease. He stressed that he wanted the community to have the information they need to protect themselves and to seek medical attention if necessary.
John H. Cotton, the attorney for the hospital, commented that people cross the line when they accuse someone of intentionally misleading a state agency. Cottle is accused of implying that the hospital intentionally hid information about the tuberculosis and failed to diagnose White in order to avoid a state investigation.
Cottle said that it was sad when a company takes legal action against an attorney who was trying to safeguard the public. He went on to say that he was quite surprised to learn about the lawsuit as he was discussing the dispute with hospital officials in an attempt to “amicably” resolve the defamation claim and was under the impression that the parties would resolve this outside of the courtroom.
Summerlin Hospital objects to the statements made by Cottle and it stresses the fact that the White case was not an intentional failure to diagnose. They also stress that the allegation they hid the tuberculosis outbreak as a means of avoiding a state investigation is false.