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Court: Slain TV anchor's mom can sue hospital, workers

By The Associated Press

This article was originally published October 4, 2012 at 9:50 a.m. Updated October 4, 2012 at 10:37 a.m.


From left: Larry Jegley, Pulaski County prosecutor; Patti Cannady, Anne Pressly's mother; and Guy Cannady, Pressly's step-father address the media after the sentencing hearing for Curtis Lavelle Vance on Thursday evening, Nov. 12, 2009.

Anne Pressly

FILE - In this Oct. 23, 2009 file photo, Curtis Lavelle Vance sits in court at the Pulaski County Court House in Little Rock, Ark. The Arkansas Supre...

— The mother of a slain Little Rock TV anchor can proceed with a lawsuit claiming outrageous behavior by a hospital and three workers who illegally looked at her daughter’s medical files, but an invasion of privacy claim must be dropped, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Patricia Cannady’s lawyers argued last month that a lower court judge was wrong to throw out her lawsuit against St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center, where her daughter Anne Pressly spent the last days of her life.

The justices ruled Thursday that Cannady can sue the hospital for outrageous behavior, because that claim is made on their own, not Pressly’s behalf. But they upheld a lower court’s ruling that Pressly’s family cannot seek punitive damages for invasion of the slain woman’s privacy.

“The crux of the (lower) court’s order was that the outrage claim failed because it was based on the same conduct as the privacy violation claim,” the justices said in the ruling. “However, neither St. Vincent nor the circuit court has cited any authority for the proposition that two separate claims cannot be based on the same conduct. In addition, the outrage claim was not made on behalf of the decedent but on appellant’s own behalf.”

Cannady found 26-year-old Pressly unconscious from a severe beating at her home on the morning of Oct. 20, 2008. Pressly, an anchorwoman at KATV, was taken to St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center, where she clung onto her life for five days before dying Oct. 25.

Curtis Vance, who police say was in Pressly’s neighborhood to rob homes, was convicted of capital murder in her death and sentenced to life in prison.

Dr. Jay Holland, a family physician who did not treat Pressly, was accused of looking at Pressly’s electronic file from home. In 2009, he, Candida Griffin and Sarah Elizabeth Miller pleaded guilty to wrongful disclosure of individually identifiable health information, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison. In their plea agreements, all three said they viewed the file out of personal curiosity and didn’t pass information to other people.

Griffin is a former emergency room unit coordinator at St. Vincent Health System and Miller is a former account representative at St. Vincent Medical Center in Sherwood.

Attorneys for the hospital and Holland argued that the Pulaski County judge correctly relied on case law going back to the 1880s that says intangible injury claims do not survive after someone’s death. Beverly Rowlett, an attorney for St. Vincent, said Cannady could offer no direct proof about how Pressly might have been hurt by any disclosure of private medical information.

Cannady’s lawyers, Bobby McDaniel and Gerry Schulze, didn’t respond to calls seeking comment Thursday morning.

Read more in tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.


Comments on: Court: Slain TV anchor's mom can sue hospital, workers

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NoUserName says... October 4, 2012 at 10:38 a.m.

and...what outrageous behavior is the hospital guilty of? Other than having the deeper pockets, of course.

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NONSHEEPLE says... October 4, 2012 at 12:16 p.m.

I agree the hospital workers should not have looked at her medical information BUT no actual harm was caused. If no harm then all those greedy lawyers need to go away.
Why do lawyers wear ties????? To keep the foreskin down...

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dumblikeme says... October 4, 2012 at 12:21 p.m.

Isn't it obvious? They failed to realize that their primary focus should be protecting patients' privacy at ALL costs...our costs by the way. Saving lives is number two! Next on the agenda will be unmarked ambulances so we don't reveal the location of the injured.

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GoHogsGo says... October 4, 2012 at 12:53 p.m.

So if a person that you do not know, had never met, knew nothing about started accessing your personal medical records from HOME you wouldn't be upset? This wasn't a little office gossip - this was a person intentionally logging on to the system from their home computer to look at a patient's file. The other two accessed it from their office. I would assume that their decision was an impulsive one after hearing the news that Anne Pressley was there. The doctor's was not an impulse decision and he should be sued personally and not drag the hospital into it.

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campdarby says... October 4, 2012 at 1:29 p.m.

I thought a statue of limatations would be in effect regarding this.

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LevyRat says... October 4, 2012 at 3:45 p.m.

Momma needs her check!!! Yes, what these employees did was wrong and they were fired, but the hospital cannot personally oversee every employee every minute of the day. Momma is suing the hospital because they have money and the fired employees don't.

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toddm76 says... October 4, 2012 at 4:58 p.m.

Momma HAS is the principle of the matter. Well said Inquire!

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NoUserName says... October 4, 2012 at 6:20 p.m.

Then why sue the hospital if it's the principle of it? Certain classes of staff members - like doctors - have access to medical records. It can't reasonably be restricted even further. I do believe these three were fired. So...why the hospital?

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NoCrossNoCrown says... October 4, 2012 at 10:30 p.m.

Don't know if i would want to reopen the wounds that a court case may bring......#sad

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