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Illinois county settles with nurse over coronavirus request

August 20, 2021 GMT

CARLYLE, Ill. (AP) — A southern Illinois county agreed to pay a nurse $35,000 to settle her lawsuit alleging she was fired for refusing to tell local law enforcement which residents had tested positive for the coronavirus.

The payment to nurse Diane Kuhl is part of an out-of-court settlement revealed by documents the Belleville News-Democrat obtained this week in response to an open records request.

Under the settlement, the county will pay $10,000 and its insurer will pay the $25,000 balance. Both sides are responsible for their own legal fees and Clinton County denies “fault, liability or wrongdoing” under the settlement, the newspaper reported.

“She got the relief that she was seeking in court, which was to make up for the lost wages and benefits she suffered because of this wrongful termination,” said Carl Draper, Kuhl’s attorney.

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Ben Jacobi, an attorney representing the county, declined to comment on the settlement’s terms.

Kuhl worked as a part-time nurse for the Clinton County Health Department for four years before she was fired in April 2020, according to the lawsuit filed in August 2020 in Clinton County Circuit Court.

It alleged that the department’s then-interim administrator told Kuhl to provide names and addresses of COVID-19 patients to the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department and police chiefs in municipalities so they could take extra precautions when responding to 911 calls.

Her suit argued that it would have been illegal for her to provide the information to outside agencies under federal and state laws that protect patient privacy. In addition, she could have faced disciplinary action, including the loss of her nursing license, the complaint alleged.

Draper also characterized the administrator’s request as unnecessary, noting that the Illinois Department of Public Health was already recommending that first responders behave as if everyone was contagious, as a precaution.