Appeals court rules libel suit against CNN by hospital CEO can move forward

CNN has suffered a legal setback in its effort to prevent a libel lawsuit against the news organization from moving forward.

Appeals Court Judge William Pryor wrote late last week that a Florida doctor can proceed with his claim that CNN ran a defamatory report that resulted in him losing his job.

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The story in question -- "Secret deaths: CNN finds high surgical death rate for children at a Florida hospital" -- ran in June 2015. The news report said mortality rates for pediatric procedures at St. Mary's Hospital in West Palm Beach, Fla., were triple the national average.

David Carbone, who served as CEO of the hospital, alleged that CNN misrepresented the hospital's 12.5 percent mortality rate in open-heart surgeries when comparing the number to a 3.3 percent national average for the same procedure. Carbone charges that CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen's report applied a national figure that covered "the national rate for all surgeries" and failed to use risk-adjusted data that accompanies riskier surgeries such as open heart in determining the inaccurate mortality rate reported.
 
Carbone alleges that two months after the story ran the ensuing public backlash prompted the hospital to close its pediatric cardiothoracic surgery program, citing “inaccurate media reports” making it difficult to “build sustainable volume." Carbone tendered his resignation two days after the program closed and filed his lawsuit against CNN in February 2016.
 
In February 2017, U.S. District Judge Orinda Evans ruled that Carbone’s allegations were "sufficient to establish that CNN was acting recklessly with regard to the accuracy of its report, i.e., with ‘actual malice,” according to the order.
 
CNN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.