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Lucy Webb Hayes Nat'l Training Sch. v. Geoghegan - 281 F. Supp. 116 (D.D.C. 1967)

Rule:

Equity will enjoin a continuing trespass or a series of repeated trespasses where an action for damages would not be an adequate remedy.

Facts:

Defendant was a patient for a considerable length of time at Sibley Memorial Hospital, which is maintained and operated by the plaintiff corporation. The hospital is a private hospital. Evidence introduced tended to show that the hospital came to the conclusion that the patient no longer needed hospital care but can be adequately provided for at a nursing home. After a series of negotiations, the president of the hospital corporation made a formal demand on the defendant's husband to transfer his wife. This demand was worded as follows: "I again request you to make arrangements for the transfer of your wife, Ellen Geoghegan, from Sibley Memorial Hospital." The correspondence introduced in evidence shows that the male defendant takes the position that his wife should remain in the hospital for the remainder of her life. Plaintiff filed an action for an injunction to require defendant patient's removal from the hospital as a trespasser. 

Issue:

Was plaintiff's action for an injunction the proper remedy?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The mere fact that the polite word "request" is used in plaintiff's demand letter does not detract from he tenor of the letter as a demand.  A private hospital has a right to accept or decline any patient. It has a moral duty to reserve its accommodations for persons who actually need medical and hospital care and it would be a deviation from its purposes to act as a nursing home for aged persons who do not need constant medical care but who need nursing care. There are homes for the aged, there are nursing homes and similar institutions. Hospitals have a duty not to permit their facilities to be diverted to the uses for which hospitals are not intended. For the hospital to permit that would be to allow a diversion of its facilities to purposes for which they are not intended and would not be in the public interest. An action for damages, of course, would present no solution so far as the plaintiff is concerned because the husband is able and willing to pay whatever the hospital would charge.

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