St. Louis Record

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Court grants Citizens Memorial Hospital request to dismiss copyright lawsuit


By Marian Johns | Mar 20, 2019


SPRINGFIELD – The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri Southern Division has granted Citizens Memorial Hospital's request to dismiss a lawsuit that alleged the hospital breached a verbal contract and infringed copyrighted material, with the court stating the health care provider has sovereign immunity and the claims are barred.

"While plaintiff’s claims are not entirely clear, plaintiff specifically alleges that a verbal contract was entered into in 2004 and that this same contract was breached in 2004," U.S. District Judge Douglas Harpool wrote. "Plaintiff’s remaining claims all stem from state law claims. The court has dismissed plaintiff’s federal copyright claim, as set forth herein, and as a result declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims."

The order was entered on March 7.

According to the court filing, the plaintiff, Wesley Flack, claimed he entered into a verbal contract with Citizen's Memorial in June 2004 to create marketing materials and states his text and illustrations for the hospital's personal safety material was used without his permission. Flack alleged the hospital breached their verbal contract by not obtaining prior approval to use his marketing materials as agreed upon and that the hospital fraudulently registered his materials with the U.S. Copyright Office, falsely claiming ownership.

Citizen's Memorial argued the copyright infringement claims filed by Flack against the hospital "are barred by sovereign immunity" and the other claims are "barred by the statute of limitations and statue of frauds." 

The hospital also argued Flack did not "state a claim to which relief can be granted with regard to any remaining claims," according to the order.

The defendant argued since it is a political subdivision, it has sovereign immunity from plaintiff's claims. The court agreed.

"While the law appears to present a somewhat inequitable result, a review of the cases analyzing this issue leads the court to find that plaintiff’s copyright claims are in fact barred by sovereign immunity," Harpool wrote.

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U.S. District Court of the Western District of Missouri Springfield Division