Former nurses sue DHEC's Templeton for defamation in TB case - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Former nurses sue DHEC's Templeton for defamation in TB case

GREENWOOD, SC (FOX Carolina) -

A judge approved the addition of defamation to a lawsuit against the health department and its director, filed by three former nurses who were fired in the wake of the Greenwood County Tuberculosis outbreak.

The attorney for Malinda Martin, Latrinia Richard and Anne Ashley was in court Tuesday where the judge approved the allocation of defamation to the wrongful termination lawsuit filed against the Department of Health and Environmental Control in 2013.

The nurses claim they were wrongfully fired, and used as scapegoats by DHEC once the TB epidemic became public. Attorney John Reckenbeil of Spartanburg - who is representing Martin, Richard and Ashley - told FOX Carolina in July that there wasn't a conduit to contact Templeton directly in connection with the case.

And in court Tuesday, Reckenbeil said they feel like they have the evidence to show Templeton and her higher ups were not doing their job. DHEC's attorney Ben Joyce fired back.

"The statements made to the press and the internal communications with DHEC employees are wholly within her official course employment as director," Joyce said.

But the judge ruled in favor of the nurses, granting their motion to amend the lawsuit to include defamation.

In response to the judge's ruling Tuesday, DHEC spokesperson Jim Beasley issued the following statement to FOX Carolina, "We are unable to comment on pending litigation. Please refer to documents filed with the court to illustrate the position of the agency."

In July, DHEC and Templeton publicly responded to the lawsuit, denying the allegations. Templeton said that managers failed to follow protocol in the case of the outbreak, did not move quickly enough in their investigation, and violated DHEC policy.

But Reckenbeil and the nurses allege those statements by Templeton harmed their reputation.

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