UPMC says it can't be sued for fraud over ads

A former patient is suing UPMC Susquehanna for fraud, alleging the health system deliberately made false representations to the public by using phrases such as "life-changing medicine" in advertisements. The Pittsburgh-based health system says it can't be sued for fraud over "puffery" phrases in ads, according to PennLive.

The lawsuit was filed by Alden Evans Sr., who was burned Oct. 30, 2019, when oxygen used during his surgery at UPMC's Williamsport (Pa.) Regional Medical Center was ignited by a cautery that uses heat. Mr. Evans was having basal cell extraction surgery when he sustained the first-, second- and third-degree burns from the fire, according to the lawsuit. 

In addition to allegations of negligence, Mr. Evans claims UPMC committed fraud by making false representations to the public in advertisements. He specifically cited a few phrases used in UPMC ads, including "the best doctors, hospital and customer service," and "life-changing medicine." 

UPMC is asking the court to dismiss the fraud claim and Mr. Evans' request for punitive damages. The health system argues the phrases used in ads are "puffery," or exaggerated commendation used for promotional purposes, according to the report. 

"Those statements are merely general claims of superiority that were expressed in broad, vague and commendatory language," UPMC stated in court documents, according to the report. 

The health system argues that the broad statements do not meet the threshold required to support a claim for fraudulent representation. 

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