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Cashion v. Smith
Virginia Supreme Court
749 S.E.2d 526 (2013)
Dr. Robert Smith (defendant) was a trauma surgeon employed by Carilion Medical Center (Carilion) (defendant). Dr. Bradley Cashion (plaintiff) was an anesthesiologist who worked for the company that provided anesthesiology services to Carilion. Smith and Cashion performed emergency surgery on a critically injured patient who died in the operating room. After the patient’s death, Smith told Cashion in front of the other operating-room-team members that the patient “could have made it with better resuscitation,” that “this was a very poor effort,” and that Cashion “didn’t really try,” “gave up on him,” and “determined from the beginning that he wasn’t going to make it and purposefully didn’t resuscitate him.” In the hallway, Smith told Cashion that Cashion had “just euthanized” Smith’s patient and repeated it at a meeting that evening. Cashion sued Smith and Carilion for defamation. Smith and Carilion filed demurrers, arguing that Smith’s statements were expressions of opinion or rhetorical hyperbole. The court dismissed the claims based on statements unrelated to euthanasia as nonactionable expressions of opinion. The court granted Smith and Carilion’s subsequent motion for summary judgment on the euthanasia statements, holding that the statements were not rhetorical hyperbole but a qualified privilege applied. Cashion appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Mims, J.)
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