Roanoke Team Secures Defense Verdict on Behalf of Physician in Defamation Matter

Roanoke, Va. (May 27, 2022) - Roanoke Managing Partner John T. Jessee and Associate Sarah C. Jessee recently secured a defense verdict on behalf of a primary care physician in a multimillion-dollar defamation matter. In this case, which was covered by the Roanoke Times, a cosmetic surgeon accused Lewis Brisbois’ client of making statements to a mutual patient that were detrimental to the surgeon’s professional reputation. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that Lewis Brisbois’ client told the patient that the plaintiff had killed his own mother when he performed surgery on her.

During the trial of this matter, evidence emerged that certain media outlets, including the Roanoke Times and Fox News, had published articles regarding the surgeon’s alleged involvement with his mother’s death and his subsequent drug addiction. It was also established that the Virginia Board of Medicine issued an order that instructed the plaintiff to stop performing certain surgical procedures due to his lack of education and training.

In addition, Mr. Jessee argued at trial that the plaintiff had not lost any business as a result of the defendant’s discussion with the mutual patient. He further explained to the jury that Lewis Brisbois’ client had a duty to protect her patient and had a limited privilege, noting “A doctor can say something that is defamatory.” Mr. Jessee further described that this limited privilege is breached when a doctor exhibits “malice” or uses “fighting words,” of which there was no evidence in this matter. Instead, according to Mr. Jessee, Lewis Brisbois’ client “was nervous for her patient and she wanted to convey that.” After deliberating for less than an hour, the jury delivered a defense verdict and the court dismissed the matter.

Mr. Jessee is a member of Lewis Brisbois’ Medical Malpractice Practice. He has directed much of his practice over the past 25 years to the defense of medical professionals. He has tried medical malpractice and health law-related cases in Virginia and West Virginia, and has been involved in over 100 medical malpractice trials.

Ms. Jessee is a member of Lewis Brisbois’ Medical Malpractice and Healthcare Practices. She focuses on the defense of medical malpractice claims as well as other civil litigation matters.

You may read more about the trial in the Roanoke Times article, “Roanoke County Jury Rejects Defamation Lawsuit Involving Salem Physicians,” here (subscription may be required).

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