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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Shut that woman up!

I've always been taught that an instituion can't be defamed; only individuals can be. What is "defamed," after all, is a person's good reputation. But perhaps they do things differently in northwest Indiana, or maybe the stories are just being sloppily written:

An emergency room incident involving alleged patient abuse at a Crown Point hospital has escalated into dueling lawsuits between the region's largest hospital system and the patient's daughter-in-law.

Lake Circuit Court Magistrate Richard McDevitt heard arguments Monday surrounding a request for a temporary restraining order to forbid Nancy Anglis of Lowell from publicly talking about the hospital, Saint Anthony Medical Center, a move her attorney likens to an unconstitutional prior restraint on her free speech.

[. . .]

The hospital claimed Anglis' actions have harmed Saint Anthony's reputation and business and spread false and malicious statements "made with knowledge that they were false or with reckless disregard for the truth."

The hospital seeks to prohibit Nancy Anglis from entering Saint Anthony's property, except in the case of emergencies, and from distributing leaflets or fliers on Saint Anthony's property. It also seeks actual, but unspecified financial damages, punitive damages and treble damages, along with attorney fees.

Anglis' Dyer attorney Donald Wruck of the firm Wruck Paupore said McDevitt is expected to rule on the restraining order within a few weeks. Wruck said his client is being sued for telling the truth. He denied that Anglis will file a medical malpractice lawsuit and said there is no dispute that the restraints were applied under a physician's orders.

Whether any individuals connected with the hospital can win a judgment against Anglis depends not just on whether she's telling the verifiable "truth" or not, but whether they can show actual damage caused by her words and actions and how "public" or "private" they are determined to be. In any case, the request for prior restraint seems over the top. "Free speech" means we duke it out verbally now, then sort it all out later.