ED Physician Wins $200,000 Retaliation Claim Against Kaiser
A Los Angeles County jury awarded an Emergency Physician $200,000 in damages against healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente on Friday, June 3, 2006, on findings that Kaiser retaliated against the doctor
Published Jun 6, 2006
A Los Angeles County jury awarded an Emergency Physician $200,000 in damages against healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente on Friday, June 3, 2006, on findings that Kaiser retaliated against the doctor by placing him on leave and lowering his pay in 2003 after he complained about filthy treatment rooms, delays in care and a shortage of supplies, according to reports in the L.A. Times.
Issues in this case do not involve EMTALA, which has specific whistle-blower protections in place.
The physician worked at Bellflower hospital which was accused in March 2006 of dumping a patient on the streets of skid row after she was discharged from its care. A Los Angeles Police Department official was quoted in the press at that time that a taxicab had taken the woman, wearing a hospital gown and slippers, to the downtown Los Angeles area against her will. Kaiser apologized, the Time reported.
Kaiser attempted to block trial by invoking an arbritration provision in the physician's contract, but the judge ruled that the arbitration agreement was "unconscionable" and unenforceable.
Among the concerns that the physician had brought to management attention were:
- a patient found a urinal containing someone else's urine on a nightstand in his treatment room
- bloody instruments were left in the sink of a treatment room
- and a shortage of nitroglycerin, epinephrine, resuscitation bags and other supplies.
Evidence included similar complaints over a long period of time by other physicians.
According to the Times, Kaiser maintained that the physciian had been disciplined because he allegedly assaulted the chief of the emergency service at the time. Defense lawyers also said that the doctor had been the subject of sexual harassment complaints and that his conduct had been deemed inappropriate.
Interviews with jury members quoted in the Times article indicated jurors viewed the physician as standing up for patient safety and awarded him lost pay, but did not award requested penalties against Kaiser.
While the jury was deliberating, and without their knowledge, the physician received notice that he was being terminated as a partner in the medical group, and his attorney advised the Times that an additional suit will be filed.
Kiaser continues to deny wrong-doing in the case. No announcement has been made yet whether they will appeal the verdict or whether word of the physician's discharge was correct.