gavel court justice colorado

Colorado’s Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal from a Denver hospital that sought to bar company documents released through an open records request from being used in a lawsuit against the facility.

"The Supreme Court’s swift rejection of the hospital’s hope to bury these documents emphasizes that hospitals must be held accountable for endangering the public," said David S. Woodruff, an attorney for the plaintiffs. 

Last week, the justices heard oral arguments in the litigation against Porter Adventist Hospital, which was previously under investigation for failing to properly sterilize surgical equipment. More than 200 plaintiffs or surviving spouses sued the hospital, alleging infections and injuries as a result of their surgery.

Porter Adventist, which Centura Health operates, argued that Denver District Court Judge Morris B. Hoffman should have granted a protective order prohibiting the plaintiffs from using approximately 400 pages of confidential hospital documents related to quality management. The hospital had turned over the papers to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which then mistakenly released the materials as part of a public records request.

Hoffman denied the hospital’s motion, saying he could not tell from the descriptions whether the documents merited confidentiality. Porter Adventist countered that Hoffman should have done a more thorough review, causing pushback from multiple justices at oral argument.

"It’s your burden of proof. Why is it on the district court?" asked Justice Richard L. Gabriel.

In a one-sentence statement issued on Jan. 14, the court returned the case and its related litigation to Hoffman for further proceedings. An attorney for Porter Adventist did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"This is one of the largest medical-legal cases in U.S. history, due to the magnitude of injured patients," said Woodruff. "The hospital’s errors have caused damages on an unprecedented scale. Medical expenses in treating these infections exceed $100 million. Many lost their livelihoods and became permanently disabled from infections deep in their spines and joints."

He added that the first trial involving nine of the plaintiffs is scheduled for October, although he is hoping for a resolution prior to then.

This story has been updated with additional comments.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.