An Illinois appellate court reversed a circuit court order dismissing a doctor’s lawsuit for slander per quod against two colleagues. Tunca v. Painter, et al, 965 N.E.2d 1237 (Ill. App. 2012). Two doctors who worked at the same hospital as the plaintiff alleged that the plaintiff was negligent during a surgery, resulting in injury to the patient. The plaintiff alleged that their statements were defamatory, causing damage to his professional reputation and a decline in patient referrals. After the circuit court dismissed multiple claims of slander per se and per quod, the plaintiff appealed. The appellate court held that the defendants’ statements were slanderous on their face, and ruled in the plaintiff’s favor.
The plaintiff, Dr. Josh Tunca, is a surgeon specializing in gynecological oncology. Defendant Dr. Thomas Painter is a vascular surgeon who worked at the same hospital. Defendant Dr. Daniel Conway was chairman at the time of the hospital’s quality review committee. After Dr. Tunca performed surgery to remove an ovarian tumor in June 2006, a severe blood clot formed in the patient’s femoral artery. Dr. Painter performed a femoral-femoral bypass, correcting the condition. Id. at 1241. Dr. Painter allegedly told the hospital’s vice president and medical affairs director that Dr. Tunca had “inadvertently cut the [patient’s] left iliac artery,” and made similar statements to other doctors. Id. at 1241-42. Dr. Conway allegedly spoke to Dr. Tunca, in the presence of other doctors, “regarding his allegedly cutting the [patient’s] artery.” Id. at 1242.
Dr. Tunca filed suit against Drs. Painter and Conway in July 2007, alleging slander per se against both defendants. This is a claim that the statements in question are unambiguously defamatory. He claimed that their statements, made in the presence of others, were “false, malicious, slanderous, and…inten[ded] to injure plaintiff’s good name and credit in his profession.” Id. After several dismissals of his slander claims, the plaintiff filed a third amended petition alleging slander per quod against both defendants, adding allegations that the defendants’ statements had been “disseminated throughout the hospital,” affecting his ability to treat patients and his ability to get new patients. Id. at 1245. After the Cook County Circuit Court dismissed these claims, the plaintiff appealed.