This defamation case can show you how to avoid being on either side of a lawsuit.
When a patient or fellow staff members say or write negative things about your nursing practice, it can be devastating to your personal and professional reputation.
Especially if what is being said or written is not true.
As I wrote in my blog, “Can an RN Sue Her Nurse Manager for Defamation?”, defamation case laws allow you to sue when someone says or writes something about you to another person that is not true. It’s called libel when it’s written. When spoken, it is termed slander.
In the case Waugh v. Healthcare, an agency nurse discovered how the defamation law works.
Details leading up to the defamation case
In this example, the agency RN was assigned to work at a facility that provided care to “incapacitated and dependent adults.” One evening, a resident told another nurse that the agency RN had “ripped the call bell off [his] shirt”, placed it out of his reach, and said, “How do you like that?”.
The agency RN told the male patient he would instead be checked at regular intervals.
Facility administration investigated the complaint by speaking with the resident and other employees who were on duty that evening. The resident repeated his complaint and facility employees, including CNAs, gave witness reports about the incident. When asked about the resident’s claim, the agency RN denied removing the resident’s call bell.
During the investigation, the facility’s nursing director sent a form to the agency to notify it of the complaint against its RN. In it, the director described in writing the incident, stating the resident “alleges neglect and informed the Department of Health and Human Services.”
She also said there were witnesses to the incident and indicated staff had provided statements along with the resident.
After its investigation, the facility determined the agency RN had: violated its call bell policy, did not provide an acceptable level of care, and her behavior was inconsistent with its mission to provide quality care and protect residents from potential or actual abuse or neglect.
The facility asked the agency to terminate the RN’s contract, noting the RN denied the allegations but the denial was not supported by the resident and employees’ statements.
The agency terminated the contract with the facility and refused to give the agency RN further assignments.
Here comes the lawsuit
The agency RN filed a lawsuit against her agency and the facility, alleging defamation and “slander/libel per se” (meaning that the spoken and/or written words were untrue about her as a professional nurse and, if she proves her case, the law does not require proof of lost wages or jobs). She asked for compensatory and punitive damages.
The trial court granted a summary judgment motion to the facility and the agency, holding that no genuine dispute of material fact existed surrounding the facts presented to the court. As a result, the defendants were entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.
The agency nurse appealed the decision to the state’s judicial …read more
Read full article here: nurse.com