PAS - Hospital ordered to pay $1.2 M

Hospital ordered to pay $1.2M



This article was previously published by Rocky Mountain News on September 22, 2004.





Children's Hospital has been ordered to pay $1.2 million in damages for negligence, conspiracy and invasion of privacy for spreading accusations on national television that a father sexually abused his daughter.

Arapahoe County District Judge J. Mark Hannen ordered the damages last week, following a jury trial in June.

Peter Liggett sued the hospital and physician's assistant Donna Nelligan after Nelligan talked about the allegations against Liggett in a 1996 CNN broadcast.

"This is a guy who was wrongly accused of really bad things," Liggett's attorney, Jeff Pagliuca, said Tuesday. "To get these people to stop, he had to sue them. Children's Hospital engaged in some really atrocious conduct. They took very private information and gave it to a national news organization. That's offensive in my book. I'm happy that six jurors held them accountable."

Liggett said his life was destroyed by the ordeal.

"They did a bad thing, a witch hunt on me that lasted a dozen years," he said. "It was tough. I was on the verge of suicide many times. It destroyed my business, made me a pariah and made me paranoid. And it's made me stronger because I'm not running away or hiding."

Liggett said he's pleased with the verdict and judgment, but knows an appeal of the case could take years.

"It's nice, the vindication, but I'm skeptical," he said. "It's taken me seven years to get to this point. I know they're going to appeal and right now I'm broke. I want the money for my daughter. I just want her to have her college paid for and a little nest egg."

Children's Hospital issued a statement Tuesday saying, "We are disappointed by the decision in this case. We are continuing to evaluate our options, including the option of an appeal."

Liggett's wife raised allegations of sexual abuse during a bitter divorce 15 years ago when their daughter was 2. No evidence of abuse was found. But his wife persisted in making complaints, taking her daughter to Children's for more examinations in 1991, when Nelligan concluded that the girl's vaginal area showed changes from the previous year's exam and reported her findings to social services.

Eventually a judge ruled that the charges were without merit and entered an order barring any further examinations of the girl. The judge also barred disclosure of the information to anyone and barred those involved from talking to the media.

"The court order restricting access and disclosure was taped on top of (the girl's) medical file," Pagliuca said. "In spite of this, they allowed a camera crew into Children's Hospital to film a physician's assistant talking about these totally unfounded charges."

In 1996, CNN broadcast a show called "Parental Alienation Syndrome," which examined parents who use children as pawns in their disputes. Nelligan talked about the Liggett case in an interview as part of the broadcast.




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