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Texas appeals court affirms $6.4 million verdict against Memorial Hermann

An appeals court upheld a Harris County upheld jury verdict awarding a $6.4 million in damages to a well-regarded Houston heart surgeon who successfully claimed that Memorial Hermann Health System defamed his reputation in an effort to protect its business from other hospitals and competitors.

In a case closely watched in the medical community, the Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas recently let stand the 2017 jury verdict that found Memorial Hermann acted with malice by making false statements about the surgical competence of Dr. Miguel Gomez III.

Gomez claimed he was a star at Memorial Hermann hospital until he decided to shift his lucrative practice to Houston Methodist West. He sued Memorial Hermann seven years ago, contending the hospital launched a “whisper campaign” to smear his reputation to keep patients from following him to Methodist.

The case opened a window on the fierce battle among hospitals for market share and the lengths to which hospitals may go to protect their turf. Independent physicians with admitting privileges are vital to hospitals because they provide a steady stream of patients, and specialists such as Gomez, who perform procedures with high profit margins, are seen as particularly valuable. Hospitals fight hard to hold onto their top performers.