Las Vegas Sun

November 27, 2014

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Summerlin Hospital sues attorney for defamation

Lawsuit charges news conference comment regarding TB was false

Embattled Summerlin Hospital Medical Center, facing negligence claims stemming from the tuberculosis-related deaths of a mother and her newborn daughter last year, countered allegations from the family's attorney today with a lawsuit of its own.

The hospital filed a defamation suit in Clark County District Court against Robert Cottle, the attorney representing the family of Vanessa White and her baby.

The lawsuit points to a May 13 news conference in which Cottle implied the hospital may have avoided diagnosing Vanessa White and her baby with tuberculosis in order to skirt public scrutiny.

"If the cause was some other infection," Cottle told reporters, "they wouldn't need the state government in there to investigate. A tuberculosis diagnosis invites oversight and opens up a can of worms."

That accusation was false and malicious, said John Cotton, a Las Vegas-based attorney who represents the hospital. Cotton noted Summerlin staff members do not diagnose medical conditions. Instead, diagnoses are made by physicians who are not employees of the hospital.

"We will not allow attorneys or others to make such false and defamatory statements about our hospital and its employees without defending ourselves," Rob Freymuller, Summerlin Hospital chief executive officer, said in a prepared statement.

The suit seeks at least $10,000 in damages.

At least 20 employees tested positive for the disease after White and her daughter were treated there with undetected TB.

Hundreds of babies, visitors and employees have since been tested for the lung disease after the mother and her child died and autopsies confirmed tuberculosis was the cause.

Cottle did not immediately respond to a message requesting comment.

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