Trinity Health, Mount Carmel must face libel claims, court rules

Several healthcare workers terminated by Mount Carmel Health System after an investigation into the overdose deaths of intensive care unit patients can proceed with some of their defamation claims against the health system, its CEO and parent organization Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health, a federal court has ruled.  

The lawsuit came after an investigation into the alleged actions of William Husel, DO, who was accused of prescribing fatal fentanyl doses to patients and indicted on 25 counts of murder. The lawsuit claims statements released by Mount Carmel in Columbus, Ohio, Trinity Health and former Mount Carmel CEO Edward Lamb about the investigation and people involved were defamatory toward the nine plaintiffs.

The defendants asked the court to dismiss the entire suit, arguing that any statements released should be analyzed as group libel and not be considered to be about the plaintiffs. 

The nine plaintiffs argue that their cause for filing the suit is not based on group libel, but even if it was, the claims should proceed. 

In the lawsuit, plaintiffs included 20 statements made by the defendants that they consider defamatory. The court said most of the statements do not make any reference to the plaintiffs and are too deficient to qualify as defamation claims. But several statements made by the defendants were about a plaintiff and can be pursued, the court said. 

"We are pleased that the Court granted our Motion to Dismiss almost all the Plaintiffs' defamation claims against us. We are confident the remaining claims will also be dismissed," a Trinity Health spokesperson told Becker's Hospital Review. 

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