Texas Hospital Sues Blog for Defamatory Comments, Allegations

A lawsuit filed on Tuesday on behalf of Paris Regional Medical Center in Texas alleges that a blog defamed the hospital and that those behind the blog have broken the law by releasing confidential patient data, the Paris News reports.

Shortly after receiving the lawsuit -- filed by parent company Essent Healthcare -- the presiding judge issued an order granting the plaintiff's motion to disclose the identity of the bloggers. The judge also ordered SuddenLink Communications, a local cable Internet provider, to release within 20 days the identity and mailing information of the bloggers.

Paris Regional Medical Center alleges that on several occasions the blog posted "false and misleading statements with malice." According to the lawsuit, the blogger falsely accused the hospital of criminal wrongdoing in operating and managing the hospital, including Medicare fraud. The hospital added that the statements were aimed to and did harm the hospital's reputation and discouraged business.

The bloggers claimed to receive their information from hospital employees, a contractual breach of the employee labor confidentiality agreement, according to the hospital.

Paris Regional Medical Center is seeking damages in an amount sufficient to compensate the hospital for its injuries and losses resulting from defamatory statements on the blog, as well as punitive damages for the "willful, malicious and reckless attacks" on the hospital's reputation, the News reports.

The hospital said that the blog was launched in March 2005 and that individuals who release individually identifiable health information could be fined up to $50,000 and imprisoned for up to a year. If the offense is committed for personal gain or with malice, the bloggers could be fined up to $250,000 and imprisoned for up to 10 years (Hankins, Paris News, 6/20).

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