HCA, Nashville, lost a trade-secrets case against two computer consultants who were awarded $25 million in punitive damages and $1.5 million in compensatory damages by a Tennessee jury. HCA plans to appeal the "outrageous" judgment, a spokesman said. An HCA subsidiary sought an injunction against Alexander Batsuk and Ryan Howard in September 2002 in Davidson County Chancery Court in Nashville. The subsidiary, HCA Information Technology & Services, had hired two outside contractors who employed Batsuk and Howard and assigned them to work with the subsidiary. HCA alleged that Batsuk and Howard learned the subsidiary's trade secrets regarding a labor-productivity program and then broke confidentiality agreements by seeking to market their own version. Batsuk and Howard countersued, contending that comments made by employees of the subsidiary defamed their reputations in the local software consulting market. Thor Urness, a lawyer for the Batsuk and Howard, said his clients' software was designed for independent hospitals, not the larger systems run by HCA, and did not rely on HCA trade secrets. Under Tennessee law, the judge must sign off on the punitive damages award before it can be entered into the record, according to Urness, a Nashville-based attorney with the firm Boult, Cummings, Conners & Berry. -- by Vince Galloro
HCA told to pay $26.5 million in trade-secrets case
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