Robinson v. Williams and East Carolina University, et al., No. 20-1636 (4th Cir.) February 1, 2023.

After a disastrous surgery, plaintiff, a cardiothoracic surgeon, sued defendant physician Williams because he said to others that plaintiff misread or failed to recognize the patient’s echocardiogram findings.  

The trial court found that because plaintiff admitted that she did not read the echocardiograms at all, that defendant’s statements could not be false, and that, accordingly, the statements could not be actionable. 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit observed that the ‘misreading’ allegations would presuppose that there had been a reading in the first place. 

From this the context must be examined – the implication that the plaintiff lacked skill to interpret the echocardiogram or that she failed to observe the standard of care by failing to read the test results at all.    

As professionals could disagree about these matters which clearly implicate plaintiffs’ professional knowledge and conduct, the federal appellate court found the statements could be actionable, particularly as plaintiff was terminated from her employment and cannot find new employment.

Summary judgment has been vacated and the case remanded for further proceedings. 

Robinson v. Williams, et al., No. 20-1636 (4th Cir.) February 1, 2023

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