Hospital settles suit with Sutton
After 42 months of litigation, the law suit between Mary Sutton, owner of Sierra Sports and Physical Therapy, and the Tahoe Forest Hospital District was settled out of court in early February for $165,000.
Sutton alleged in her original complaint, filed in July 1996, that hospital officials dragged their feet paying money owed to her, used proprietary information belonging to her and that she was the victim of libel, slander and conspiracy. Sutton’s business, Sierra Sports and Physical Therapy, lost its bid to renew its contract with the hospital in December 1995.
After a series of delays, TFH was successful in getting portions of the suit thrown out, and the claim was dropped to breach of contract.
TFH Administrator/CEO Larry Long said the district chose to settle for that amount because the cost of continuing to defend the district’s position would have been more than $165,000.
The district spent approximately $500,000 over the course of litigation in legal fees, most of which was paid for by the district’s malpractice insurance carrier, Long said.
“We spent a lot of money defending a claim that had little merit,” he said. “It was a complicated claim that required a lot of effort.”
The TFH Board directed the district’s legal counsel to attempt to settle the case in a closed session special meeting on Feb. 4.
“We decided to settle because going to trial was pointed out by our attorneys as being extremely costly,” said board president MaryLou Sullivan. “I wanted to get it behind us. It was emotionally draining on both parties.”
Besides being costly, going to trial would take hospital staff away from work, Sullivan said.
“It was in the best interest of the district to settle,” she said.
Long said the three and a half year claim is the longest-running litigation the hospital district has been involved with that he was aware of.
The trial date had been scheduled for Feb. 23, and the settlement was finalized on Feb. 10, according to court documents.
Eric Sutton, Mary Sutton’s husband, said the delays were frustrating, unnecessary and expensive; but that he and Mary were glad the suit was over.
“It’s something that we’re obviously satisfied with or we wouldn’t have settled,” he said. “We’ve walked away from this without owing our attorneys for legal fees.The deal that was made kept us from going through the courts for the next several years. We’re satisfied with the settlement and ready to get on with our lives.”
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