LAS VEGAS — A Las Vegas hospital is accusing a Nevada personal injury lawyer of defaming it with comments during a May news conference about a lawsuit stemming from a tuberculosis outbreak last year.
Summerlin Hospital Medical Center accused attorney Robert Cottle in a lawsuit filed Thursday in state court of implying that the facility intentionally concealed or failed to diagnose a woman’s tuberculosis infection because it would spark a state investigation.
“You step over the line when you accuse someone of intentionally misleading a state agency,” said attorney John Cotton, who is representing the hospital. He termed the lawsuit an “enough is enough” filing.
Cottle said the lawsuit surprised him because he had been talking with hospital officials about resolving their dispute.
He said he intended during the news conference to inform the community about the tuberculosis exposure and advise people to pay attention to illness and take control of their health care.
“It’s a sad day when corporations sue lawyers who are protecting the public trust,” he said.
The dispute stems from comments in a May 13 news conference announcing the filing of a medical malpractice lawsuit against Summerlin Hospital, Valley Health System, seven nurses and more than 15 doctors.
That lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages on behalf of Ruben White, the husband of Vanessa White, who died in July 2013 after contracting tuberculosis, and the father of their twin children, who also died.
It alleges that 25-year-old Vanessa White had tuberculosis symptoms but wasn’t properly screened while she kept visiting her premature twin girls at the hospital last summer.
The first baby died without being tested for tuberculosis. White died in July and was diagnosed during an autopsy. The second baby later died of tuberculosis.
The defamation complaint seeks unspecified monetary damages from Cottle and his law firm, along with a declaration that the statement was false.
“There may have been a motivation to find a cause for her condition other than tuberculosis,” the document quotes Cottle saying. “If the cause was some other infection, they wouldn’t need the state government in there to investigate. ... A tuberculosis diagnosis invites oversight and opens up a can of worms.”
Summerlin Hospital said the statement refers to it and “blatantly implies an intentional failure to or concealment of a diagnosis of tuberculosis.”
“Such an allegation is false,” the hospital said.