The Daily Show's Trevor Noah Sues NYC Hospital, Orthopedic Surgeon

Steph Weber

December 17, 2021

Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show, has filed suit against a prominent New York City hospital and surgeon for negligence.

Trevor Noah

The 14-page summons and complaint, filed in New York State Supreme Court on November 29, alleges that it occurred while Noah was under the care of an orthopedic surgeon, Riley J. Williams III, MD. Court documents state that Noah saw Williams several times between August 25, 2020, and December 17, 2020, including for surgery on November 23, 2020.

Also named in the complaint is Williams' employer, the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS). According to the hospital's website, HSS is the "oldest orthopedic hospital in the United States" and was ranked number one in orthopedics for 12 years in a row by US News & World Report.

HSS "performs more hip surgeries and knee replacements than any other hospital in the US," says their website, and it is recognized as "the team physicians and athletic trainers" for several professional and college sports teams, including the New York Giants, the Mets, and the Knicks.

The complaint claims that Noah's "diagnosis, management, care, treatment and surgery…was performed and rendered in a negligent or careless manner, and constituted professional negligence." It goes on to say that the defendants failed to follow generally accepted "standards of care and treatment" nor "use approved connection with the surgery performed."

While the allegations are somewhat broad, documents specify a failure to "prescribe proper medications" and "discontinue certain prescription medications." The accusations also cite a "failure to properly diagnose [the] plaintiff's illness and condition" and "negligently [perform] physical examinations [and surgery]."

In addition, court papers say that HSS was negligent and careless because it did not "investigate the qualifications, competence, capacity, abilities and capabilities" of staff "prior to the granting or renewing of privileges or employment of defendants, doctors, nurses and others involved in plaintiff's care." Had the hospital done so, alleges Noah's attorney, "privileges and/or employment would not have been granted and/or renewed."

As of December 16, the New York State Education Department's website showed that Williams' medical license is active and registered through February 2024. No other licensing issues were immediately evident.

The filing further notes that neither defendant informed Noah "of the risks, hazards, and alternatives to the treatment and medical care and assistance rendered so that an informed consent to said treatment could be given," for which a "prudent person...would have refused the treatment rendered, had they been so informed."

The actions of both Williams and HSS led to "sustained permanent, severe and grievous injuries" for Noah, who "was rendered sick, sore, lame and disabled." Noah has experienced "severe nervous shock, mental anguish, severe emotional distress and great physical pain," say the court documents, which prevented Noah from "engaging in his usual occupation for a long period of time."

Archives for The Daily Show indicate Noah aired a show on November 19, 2020, 4 days before his surgery and that he didn't return until November 30, 7 days post surgery.

Per his bio, Williams "is an orthopedic surgeon in the Sports Medicine Institute at HSS specializing in knee, shoulder and elbow surgery" with a focus on "returning athletes to sport." He is listed as the director of the Institute for Cartilage Repair at HSS, the team physician for USA Basketball, and the medical director and head team orthopedic surgeon for the Brooklyn Nets (NBA) and New York Liberty (WNBA) professional basketball teams, the New York Red Bulls (MLS) professional soccer team.

In a statement to Law & Crime, the hospital's public relations team made the following comment: "HSS received a complaint filed on behalf of Mr. Trevor Noah. We have shared with Mr. Noah's attorney a detailed rebuttal to the claims, which are meritless.”

The hospital cited HIPAA as a restriction in addressing further specifics of Noah's treatment.

Steph Weber is a Midwest-based freelance journalist specializing in healthcare and law.

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