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Rhode Island Supreme Court Finds Defamation Claim Against Medical Director Of Nursing Home Survives Motion To Dismiss

 
 

HLD, v. 33, n. 10 (October 2005)

Rhode Island Supreme Court Finds Defamation Claim Against Medical Director Of Nursing Home Survives Motion To Dismiss

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 12(b)(6) motion.

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).

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