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DECISIONS EVIDENCE a computer expert’s testimony as to when an allegedly libelous memo was first created and appeared on a company’s computer network shared drive did not support his conclusion about who actually wrote the memo, Texas’ 13th Court of Appeals on July 10 said. Columbia Valley Regional Med. Ctr. v. Bannert, No. 13-01-095-CV. A hospital worker sued the hospital’s CEO and its chief nursing officer (CNO) for libel over a memo a co-worker found on the hospital’s shared network drive. The memo said the worker did not measure up to professional standards. It also proposed to discredit the employee, and if that didn’t work, to spread rumors about her. The expert testified that the CNO had written the memo, even though no trace of the memo was found on the CNO’s computer or in the system as a whole on the date it was allegedly written. Nonetheless, the trial court submitted the question of the memo’s libelous content to the jury, which returned a $1.5 million verdict. Throwing out the award, the appeals court first ruled that the statements were not libelous-they were largely opinions-and that the trial court erred by submitting that question to the jury. The court then ruled that the expert’s authorship conclusion was unsupported. Although the hard drives and back-up tapes of all the computers that could have been involved did not reveal who the author was, the expert had concluded the CNO was the author because he also believed the hospital was “trying to pull a fast one.”

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