Jury orders Unite Here union to pay medical group $17.3 million
By Jason Bennert, Bay City News Service
July 22, 2006
A jury Friday ruled that a labor union had defamed a Northern
California medical group with a mass mailing of postcards and
awarded the Sutter Health medical group almost $17.3 million in
The Placer County jury found that Unite Here, one of the nation's
largest unions that represents hotel, restaurant and laundry workers,
defamed Sutter Health early last year by sending postcards to
Northern California residents claiming the group's hospitals used
unclean linens. The union was in a labor dispute with the laundry
service that cleaned the linens at the time.
Sutter Health runs a number of prominent Bay Area hospitals including
Alta Bates in Oakland, California Pacific medical Center in San
Francisco and Mills-Peninsula Health Services in Burlingame.
"We are pleased that leaders of Unite Here have been held
legally accountable for recklessly frightening patients and the
public through outrageous and false allegations,'' Sutter Health
Board of Directors Chairman Michael Roosevelt said.
In a statement released following the jury's verdict, Sutter
Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gordon Hunt said the verdict
money would be reinvested in new patient care.
"Providing top quality care is our number-one priority.
The jury's award to Sutter Health will be reinvested right back
into our communities in the form of new programs and health services,''
A spokeswoman for Unite Here was not immediately available for
comment on the verdict.
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