Saturday, June 2, 2007

Jewish Hospital won't seek to gag lawyers in suit

Jewish Hospital no longer wants a judge to bar lawyers from discussing its lawsuit against two lawyers who unsuccessfully sued the hospital over allegedly unsanitary conditions.

Spokesman Jeff Polson said hospital executives decided they need to be able to defend it publicly because they expect an attorney for lawyers Joseph White and Michael O’Connell will continue to make “outrageous statements to the press” about the hospital.

Polson said the attorney, Gary Weiss, is repeating false assertions that the lawyers made during the underlying litigation.

Weiss, who represents White, said he suspects the hospital abandoned its request because there was little chance it would prevail and because it had been ridiculed by legal commentators.

“I guess they got so much heat that they dropped it,” he said.

The hospital’s attorney, Alice Herrington, withdrew the motion on Tuesday in Jefferson Circuit Court without explanation.

Judge Fred Cowan said in court that he was skeptical of the motion.

Weiss has said the statements made during the litigation by White and O’Connell about the hospital were true. Weiss said his statements also were accurate and that most were made in court papers in response to the suit.

The two lawyers had filed 96 lawsuits alleging that unsanitary conditions caused infections that led to patient illnesses and deaths.

Eighty-four of the suits have been dismissed, most of them after the lawyers said they couldn’t afford to continue. Two suits were dismissed by judges on their merits, and none were brought to trial.

Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s Healthcare Inc. sued the lawyers May 1, alleging they had tarnished its reputation in comments to news organizations and abused the legal process by trying to force settlements through adverse publicity.

White and O’Connell have said in court papers that their suits were justified by hundreds of reports of unsanitary conditions from patients, employees, government regulators and the hospital itself.

Gag orders are rarely sought in civil cases, and it is even more unusual for them to be requested by the plaintiff who files a suit, experts said

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