One nurse settles, 2nd nurse sues Flint hospital over alleged racial note

10:32 PM, Feb 22, 2013   |    comments
Picture shows a note allegedly posted at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, barring African American nurses from caring for a baby. The name of the baby has been obscured to protect the child's privacy.
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FLINT, Mich. (WZZM) -- One lawsuit might be settled, but a second is now pending against Hurley Medical Center, the Flint hospital accused of honoring the wishes of a swastika-tattooed man who told a nurse supervisor he didn't want African-American nurses caring for his newborn.

Late Thursday, even as attorneys were meeting to settle the complaint filed by veteran nurse Tonya Battle, a second African-American nurse filed a lawsuit too, saying she also was harmed because of the incident last year.

In the second lawsuit, Carlotta Armstrong, who according to her attorney is a veteran nurse like Battle, suffered among other things "extreme emotional distress and mental anguish."

Honoring the father's request means separating employees because of their skin color, a clear violation of civil rights law, said attorney Tom Pabst.

"Look if this guy wants to be a white racist ... This is America and he can do whatever he wants and he can ask for whatever he wants," said Pabst, who added that both his sons were born at Hurley. "Hurley is one of the best hospitals in Michigan. That's why I'm just dumbfounded that some nurses supervisor thinks that a white supremacist's request be honored."

Armstrong could not be immediately reached for comment; the hospital has declined comment until a news conference at 6 p.m.

Battle accused the hospital of posting a note on an assignment clipboard saying that African-American nurses could not care for a certain newborn. The father had requested that his baby, who was in the neonatal intensive care unit, not be cared for by African-American nurses, according to the complaint filed in Genesee County Circuit Court in January.

Battle and hospital officials are set to deliver a joint statement at the press conference.

Battle's husband, Richard, earlier today told the Free Press that the Battles and attorneys and hospital officials had met for 14 1/2 hours Thursday to hammer out a settlement, the details of which he said he could not disclose.

"We left (the meeting), and everybody was satisfied," Richard Battle, husband of Tonya Battle, 49, said.

On Wednesday, the hospital's CEO, Melany Gavulic, denied the hospital approved the father's request, saying that the request made staff worry about their safety.

That same day, the Rev. Charles Williams, a representative of the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, held a news conference demanding answers about the incident, which allegedly began Oct. 31. Williams later told The Free Press he was surprised when a hospital staff person approached him near the end of the conference, telling him that Gavulic had invited him to her office. Williams said they met for more than an hour and he was impressed by her "heartfelt" commitment to "resolve this immediately."

Gavlulic, through a hospital spokeswoman, had agreed that the meeting was "positive."

Richard Battle said Williams wasn't part of the meeting at the office of Kendall Williams, the hospital attorney. But Gavulic was there the entire day, Battle said.

"They were very, very cordial," he said, of Gavulic and Kendall Williams.

Contact Robin Erb: 313-222-2708 or rerb@freepress.com

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