SULLIVAN CO., Tenn. (WJHL)- An attorney filing a lawsuit against Ballad Health and two former employees of Bristol Regional Medical Center after an incident with a patient in 2020 is speaking out.

Greg Neal, the former CEO of Bristol Regional, resigned after violating patient protection policies.

The health system said Neal, who is not a doctor, scrubbed in for a surgery and performed the initial incision under Doctor Nathan Smith, who was fired following the incident.

The original lawsuit against Ballad, the former CEO and surgeon was filed on July 30, 2021– with two separate issues– one being medical malpractice and the other being civil tort battery.

“The first complaint concerned the civil tort battery. That’s just basic common law, and it only concerned battery as it relates to Greg Neal, who was the former CEO of Bristol Regional Medical Center, and anyone that aided or contributed or even facilitated Mr. Neal’s actions,” said Joseph McMurray, an attorney with the Wayne Culbertson Law Firm representing the patient. “The second complaint is basically medical malpractice, and when you file that complaint there are a whole host of statutory guidelines that you have to meet before you can file it. Medical malpractice can only be filed against the doctors, right? So, we were in this conundrum where we’ve got one real cause of action – that’s battery – and the second cause of action that is covered primarily by the statutes, which is medical malpractice. So, we’ve got two complaints and we have amended the first complaint.”

The lawsuit has now been amended in response to Ballad and Neal and Smith’s motions to dismiss.

“It’s the defense’s theory that we had to comply with the medical malpractice statute. We basically had to sue him for medical malpractice even though he’s not a healthcare provider. Our theory is completely different. We’re saying ‘No, he actually committed crimes,'” said McMurray. “We are alleging that he committed assault in our amended complaint in the fact that there were tools used or a scalpel that was used… we allege that that could be a deadly weapon.”

Sullivan County’s District Attorney General, Barry Staubus, wrote a letter to request the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners to look into the incident.

“There’s a statute that authorizes it, and because of the unique nature of this, it’s a medical matter, it’s not a typical law enforcement question,” said Staubus. “The statute basically says I can direct them and request them to do the investigation of the medical-related matter, and I felt that this fell right into their jurisdiction.”

(a) The members of the board shall investigate any supposed violation of this chapter and report to the proper district attorney general all the cases that in the judgment of such member or members warrant prosecution.

(b) It is the duty of the district attorneys general to prosecute violators of this chapter.


Staubus wrote another letter in January of 2021 and has yet to receive a response.

“It was involving a situation with a doctor and then a nonmedical person involved in a surgery where there was an incision. There are allegations it might be a civil matter, or it can be administrative,” Staubus said. “Because I am not an expert in the medical field, because it was a unique circumstance, and because the statute existed, I thought this would be the proper avenue to go.”

Depending on the response from the board and the facts supported in it, a separate case could be created.

“They can give the recommendations and I may or may not follow the recommendations, and I may submit it to a grand jury, and they may or may not follow the recommendations either,” Staubus said. “But I would have liked to have at least had those to consider to determine but without a response, I was basically left where I am at today.”

News Channel 11 reached out to the Tennessee Department of Health about the status of the request. No response has been sent as of Wednesday evening.

Ballad Health and the attorneys for Greg Neal and Dr. Nathan Smith declined to comment on the lawsuit since it is still pending.