Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Sunday, December 09, 2012

Reduced lawsuit

Hospital drops most of its
claims against web page

By David Baker
Posted Sunday Dec. 9, 2012

A lawsuit in which Samaritan Hospital is claiming damages and an injunction against a web page that reports details of medical malpractice lawsuits is now a lot smaller following a demand to the hospital for records documenting the amount and cause of its alleged losses.

In a response served this week to a motion for a court order for the records, lawyers for the hospital say all of the demanded records are irrelevant.

They also say they are dropping most of their claims.

“As matter of practicality and to permit this case to be trial ready, plaintiffs hereby elect not to seek the following possible damages from defendant:  injury to plaintiff’s reputation or good will, lost profits, expenses of preventing customers from being deceived, or the cost of future advertising.  The only actual money damages plaintiffs will seek consist of the profits, if any, [defendant] has made by the use of the website or logo, and counsel fees.”

The logo referred to is one used by Northeast Health, Inc., which was displayed on the disputed web site from January 2011 until February of this year.  The placing of logos of companies or organizations is common on many news-reporting web pages and is allowed under the fair-use principle.

In the lawsuit, the hospital and its parent company had sought an injunction prohibiting the use of the logo and the Internet domain name ‘,’ as well as money for alleged damage to their reputations.

In order to prevail, the plaintiffs would have had to prove that their alleged losses were caused specifically by the use of the domain name and logo, rather than by the stories on the web page describing previously unreported lawsuits alleging medical malpractice and negligence filed against them and other providers.

The claims now dropped risked the hospital being challenged on an apparent attempt to stifle free speech rights protected by the First Amendment, and those provided by a New York law that specifically protects the reporting of legal proceedings.

The two motions will go before Acting Supreme Court Justice Andrew G. Ceresia, who will decide if the hospital should have its legal fees paid by the defendant in a case it brought, but which it has now all but discontinued.