HLD, v. 33, n. 10 (October 2005)
Rhode Island Supreme Court Finds Defamation Claim Against Medical Director Of Nursing Home Survives Motion To
The Rhode Island high court found August 24 that
a nurse's claim for defamation should survive a motion to dismiss. The court
found that the complaint did contain allegations of possible defamation when an
incident in which the nurse was involved was reported to the Board of Nursing.
Plaintiff Richard Hyatt was
employed as a registered nurse at the Village House Convalescent Home (home).
He was called by another nurse to help remove a lidoderm
patch from an uncooperative patient. The other nurse first called Dr. Norman
Rudolf, the medical director of the home, who told her to contact a pharmacist
to receive information about the patch. After doing that, Hyatt and the nurse
forcibly removed the patch. The incident was reported to the Board of Nursing,
which found that Hyatt did not engage in unprofessional conduct. However, Hyatt
was later terminated from the home because of the incident and was unable to
find subsequent employment at another nursing home.
Hyatt sued the home, Rudolf, and
three others for defamation, breach of contract, wrongful termination,
intentional interference with contract, and malicious institution of civil
proceedings. Rudolf filed a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ.
P. 12(b)(6), arguing Hyatt failed to state a claim
upon which relief could be granted. The trial court granted the motion to
dismiss. Hyatt appealed.
The Rhode Island Supreme Court
affirmed in part and reversed in part, finding that Hyatt did state a valid
claim for defamation. According to the high court, the defamation claims
"indicate, albeit opaquely, that one or more of the individual defendants may
have defamed" him. Therefore, the court held that this claim should survive a
The high court went on to find the
other claims were properly dismissed as there were no allegations that Rudolf
was a party to any contract with Hyatt, was his employer, or that he initiated
any civil proceedings against Hyatt.
Hyatt v. Village House Convalescent Home, No. 2004-25-APPEAL (R.I. Aug. 24, 2005).