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Humana Inc. Sues NBC Over “St. Elsewhere″

September 30, 1987

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ The hospital chain Humana Inc. has filed suit against NBC-TV, claiming the network is infringing on the company’s trademark in its Emmy award-winning show ″St. Elsewhere,″ an attorney said.

The suit, filed Tuesday in federal court in Louisville, asks that NBC immediately stop using the name ″Ecumena″ for the fictional hospital that is the basis of the show’s story line, said James Cox, an attorney for Humana.

The suit doesn’t specify monetary damages, but asks the court to set an amount that it thinks is fair.

A hearing on Humana’s request for a restraining order was scheduled for 3:30 p.m. today in federal district court in Paducah. It was moved from Louisville after U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Ballantine, who sits in the city, took himself off the case because he owns stock in Humana.

When the show debuted this season, it introduced ″Ecumena″ as the new owner for the hospital, which had been called St. Eligius. Ecumena was protrayed as a for-profit hospital chain based in the Midwest. A blue sign with Humana-type lettering also appeared on the building of the hospital, Cox said.

In addition, the story line now includes the introduction of an artificial- heart program at the hospital, he said.

Humana is a Louisville-based, for-profit hospital chain that is home to the only permanent artificial-heart program in the United States.

NBC, which is owned by General Electric Co., ″believes the complaint is totally without merit,″ according to Ellen Miller-Wachtel, general attorney for the network.

She said ″St. Elsewhere″ will be shown as scheduled tonight.

In an interview Tuesday before news of the suit was learned, a ″St. Elsewhere″ scriptwriter said neither the name nor other characteristics of the corporation that takes over the television hospital were modeled after Humana.

″We were looking for a name that had universal appeal and was friendly sounding,″ said John Tinker, a writer for MTM Productions in Los Angeles.

″We discussed the idea of ecumenical and from that came up with the idea of Ecumena.″

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