The Texas Supreme Court has nullified a $6.4 million jury verdict for a Houston cardiothoracic surgeon in his lawsuit alleging defamation and business disparagement by Memorial Hermann Hospital System.
In part, the Supreme Court ruled on April 22 there was no evidence to show that Miguel Gomez, MD’s reputation was harmed by an alleged defamatory statement a Memorial Hermann staff member made about him to a competing hospital that later hired Dr. Gomez.
The Texas Medical Association supported Dr. Gomez with friend-of-the-court briefs throughout the duration of the case, including when he successfully pushed to uncover relevant records that Memorial Hermann attempted to keep confidential.
Dr. Gomez sued the hospital system claiming Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center started a smear campaign against him after he made plans to move to Methodist West. He claimed the campaign manifested in whispers about his performance and through distorted patient data and questionable peer review. The hospital denied any wrongdoing.
Memorial Hermann appealed the 2017 jury verdict awarding Dr. Gomez more than $6 million, but the court of appeals upheld that verdict. The Texas Supreme Court’s 25-page decision, however, came to a different conclusion than any court before it.
The Supreme Court found no evidence that one of the alleged defamatory statements a hospital staffer made about Dr. Gomez was ever published, meaning it couldn’t qualify as defamation.
The high court went on to erase the part of the award the jury gave Dr. Gomez for a statement made by a Memorial Hermann employee to a Methodist West employee, as Methodist was “contemplating a future relationship” with Dr. Gomez. In part, the Supreme Court noted that even after the allegedly disparaging statement, Methodist West went on to hire Dr. Gomez.
The evidence did not show the statement “caused any actual loss of reputation to Gomez. Accordingly, we hold that no evidence supports the jury’s award of $1,004,500 in damages for loss of reputation. Nor is the evidence legally sufficient to support the $1,004,500 lost profit award, for similar reasons,” Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht wrote.
On May 9, Dr. Gomez asked the Supreme Court for a rehearing on the case.