Tennessee lawmaker who called healthcare exec an 'Irish gangster' claims immunity in defamation suit

A Tennessee lawmaker says he is immune to liability in a defamation lawsuit filed by Rennova Health President and CEO Seamus Lagan, according to the Independent Herald.

In his federal lawsuit, Mr. Lagan alleges state Rep. John Mark Windle made multiple "derogatory and false" statements to media outlets after West Palm Beach, Fla.-based Rennova closed Jamestown (Tenn.) Regional Medical Center in June.

Shortly after the hospital closed, Mr. Windle referred to Mr. Lagan as an "Irish gangster" and a "thief" who "should be prosecuted" in an interview with a local TV station, according to the report.

The lawsuit alleges Mr. Windle's statements caused Mr. Lagan reputational and professional harm as well as mental anguish and emotional distress.

Mr. Windle says the lawsuit should be dismissed. His lawyer argues that Mr. Windle was performing his legislative duties when he made any comments about Mr. Lagan.

Under the Tennessee Constitution, state lawmakers have legislative privilege and are protected when acting in an official capacity. Mr. Windle's lawyer contends that Mr. Windle is shielded from liability because he was speaking to the media as a member of the state legislature when comments were made about Mr. Lagan.

"The purpose of this defamation lawsuit … is apparently to punish and silence him for speaking out about a topic [Lagan] wants to censor," states the motion to dismiss filed Aug. 30, according to the Independent Herald.

Mr. Lagan is seeking $100,000 in punitive damages.

Access the full Independent Herald article here.

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