August 15, 2002 Legal News

Wrongful Termination




Hospital Liens



Hospital Privileges

Wrongful Termination

Syed v Lutheran General
US Dist. Ct.

Syed, a Pakastani Muslim, was fired by Chicago Lutheran General Hospital.  The facts are that a patient complained about the IT person after overhearing a "anti-American" comment following the 9/11 attack. He was also accused of having a picture of Osama bin Laden screen saver on his computer.  The administration sent Syed home and then fired him by mail. If he wins the most he can get is $300,000 but he can also send a message that the United States stands for the freedom to express your views, even if others don't agree with you.  

Lapham v Prison Health Services
Florida Superior Ct.

Lapham, a nurse at the St. Lucie County jail, was fired two days after making a complaint about the care received by the inmates.  She accused nurses of falsifying medical records to show they received medication when they did not.  She reported the incidents to her supervisor who now say they have no record of the report.  After working in a jail as a physician for one year, I can agree in general with the nurse's statements.

Carter, MD v St. John's Reg. 
Mo. App. Ct.

Carter, a physician, had been offered a contract by a hospital VP and the contract had been ratified by the Board.  The pathologist's privileges allowed hin to officially interpret bone marrow tests.  The hospital later unilaterally restricted those privileges.  He won $1 million for breach of contract and $1.5 million for tortious interference in trial court.  the upper court affirmed the $1 million breach of contract but sent the interference claim back to the trial court for further proceedings.  

Dietz v Jaroch, MD  

Dietz sued her physician for fraud and breach of contract.  Dietz, a Medicare recipient, states the physician called her four days prior to a scheduled elective obesity surgery and demanded $5000 up front or $4600 more than Medicare allows. The claim is the physician called her and stated he just received a large malpractice insurance premium bump and didn't have enough money to pay the premium. The patient borrowed the money and paid the physician.  The physician agrees he did call the patient and told her the premium was increased.  He also states he told her that if he didn't pay the premium he would have to cancel the surgery. He did keep the extra money but claims he broke no Medicare rules. 

Chakrabarti v Commissioner of Pub. Health  
Mass. Appeals Ct.

Dr. Chakrabarti sued for damages and reinstatements in federal court and won monetary damages.  He was not given any decision on his reinstatement.  he then went to state court to sue for the reinstatement but did not plead well enough in the court to overcome the defendant's summary judgment motion. Top


Boy v John Hopkins
Case not yet filed but should be soon

John Hopkins has given a 2 1/2 year old child an overdose of carboplatin causing deafness.  The child has a neuroblastoma and was given twice the normal dose for three separate treatments.  After finding this error. Hopkins reviewed its processes and found another patient also received the wrong dose but only one time. This had no relation to the research death a year ago.  The hospital issued an apology for the physician error that created the overdose.     

   McKenzie v Permanente Med.
Hawaii Supreme Ct.

The plaintiff was injured in an auto accident after Wilson a patient at Kaiser fainted while driving due to prescribed medication.  The Supreme Court ruled that the physician could be found negligent in not warning Wilson about the dangers of driving while taking the medication, if the facts to be brought out in the lower court show that the physician did not warn about the potential problem of driving while on the medication.  

McCorry v Evangelical Hosp Corp.
Ill. App. Ct.

McCorry became paralyzed after back surgery by Thomas Hurley, MD.  He sued Dr. Hurley and the hospital.  The trial court stated Hurley was a independent practitioner and the hospital could not be held liable for his actions.  The Appeals Court did not agree.  They used the ostensible agency standard that if a reasonable person was led to believe the physician was a agent of the hospital the hospital may be liable.  It remanded the case back to the trial court for a trial on the ostensible agency theory.          

Conrad-Hutsell v Colturi
Ohio Ct. App.

The plaintiff with Crohn's Disease sued for prescribing addictive drugs and failed to recognize she was becoming addicted.  The trial court ruled for a summary judgment for the defendant due to the patient assumed the risk of addiction.  The Court of Appeal reversed and remanded the case for trial.  Their rationale was the physician may or may not have considered the possibility of the patient becoming addicted when he prescribed the medicine and this is a question for the jury.  Just because the plaintiff knew of the risk and took excess narcotics and lied to the physician and lied to obtain more drugs, the physician still has a duty to monitor his patients for signs of abuse.  Is it any wonder why Ohio has a malpractice premium problem?      

Fortney v Callenberger
Pa Superior Ct.

 Fortney had an auto accident had had surgery with follow-up visits from Callenberger.  Fortney signed a release from the insurance company releasing them and all other person from all claims in return for a lump sum payment.  He later sued the physician for medical malpractice, as is the norm in Pennsylvania.  The physician stated he was released from any claim by the signature on the release form and the trial court agreed.  Believe it or not the Superior Court agreed and cited precedent in the state Supreme Court.     

Upland Anesthesia v Doctor's Company
CA Ct. Appeal

An anesthesiologist in the group had withheld anesthesia from a Medicaid patient unless she came up with extra money prior to the delivery.  She didn't and she got no anesthesia for her delivery.  She then sued the anesthesiologist and his group.  The group was insured by Doctor's Company and refused to pay for the defense or the judgment.  The anesthesiologist group sued the insurer.  The insurer won in the courts but the case was ordered not published.  This means that it could not be used for precedent.  The Court now reversed itself and allowed the case to be published.   

Doe v Tucson Medical Center 

Five patients have died at the hospital due to employee screw-ups and lack of systems to over ride the screw-ups.  A nurse mixed up oxygen and suction tubes and four other problems were found when the state investigated.  The hospital has paid a fine to the state of $10,750 and is open for snap inspections.  The patient or patients have not yet sued but I am sure that is not far behind unless settlements are reached privately.         Top


US v P. G. Raithetha, MD
USDC Kentucky

Dr. Raithatha was sentenced to 27 months in a federal prison along with a $6,000 fine and a $2000 special assessment.  The charge is defrauding the government health care programs.  He is accused of faked cost reports.  He also surrendered his license but has the right to have it returned if his conviction is reversed.      

US v John Minarcik, MD

Dr. Minarcik, a pathologist in Skokie, Ill. has been arrested by the FBI one day after his former partner Dr. Leonard Walker was indicted in Fort Pierce, Florida.  The charge is that while the two were at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Florida, they did unnecessary and inappropriate testing of placental tissue.  This occurred 48 times.  The doctors examined the placental tissue long after birth instead of prior to birth when the exam was supposed to be done.  The tests were therefore medically unnecessary.  Neither former partners who have sued each other in the past over business issues are practicing medicine.        

US v Abdul Baluch, MD 
USDC Texas

Dr. Baluch pled guilty of fraud for phony and unnecessary services that totaled over $9 million.  He agreed to pay back $4 million.  I guess crime does pay. Top


US v Oroville Hospital

For three years a patient had attempted to have Oroville Hospital in California provide sign language interpreters.  The hospital needed a boost.  It got one when the US Attorney stepped in.  A 14 page agreement was signed which required Oroville pay $20,000 to the patient and $10,000 in civil penalties.  The hospital is now required to have skilled sign language interpreters always available to help.        Top

Hospital Liens

McMeans v Scripps Center
Ca Ct. App

The California Court of Appeal ruled that the California Lien Act prohibited hospitals to go after patients for money that the hospital had agreed to accept from an insurance company is payment for a procedure.  If the insurance policy does not cover the procedures performed, the hospital may place a lien on the settlement to recover its reasonable value of the benefit performed.        Top


Multiple Plaintiffs v CMS
Dist. Ct. D.C.

Multiple plaintiffs including three Medicare recipients are suing CMS for the lack of appeal rights over a national coverage decision.  CMS took away coverage for Visudyne, used for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration.  This condition is one of the most frequent causes of blindness in the elderly.  The CMS did not allow an appeal of their decision due to lack of funding for appeals by Congress.  The unfunded mandate to allow appeals was supposed to go into effect by October 1, 2001.        Top


Hawaii Medical Assn. v Hawaii Medical Service Assn.
State Ct.

The state medical association has filed suit against the largest insurer in Hawaii for using the bad computer system for automatically bundles and denies claims.  The company used the excuse that everybody does, so do we.  The medical association is seeking a class action to cost the insurer even more money.        Top

Hospital Privileges

Gluscic v Avera St. Luke's
ND Supreme Ct.

In another bad decision that followed its earlier one involving the same set of facts, Avera kicked off its staff a physician for economic reasons.  The physician also sued with the same results as the first case, he lost.  This had to do not only with economic credentialing but also the illegal unilateral changes in the bylaws by the hospital Board.        Top


DISCLAIMER: Although this article is updated periodically, it reflects the author's point of view at the time of publication. Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice. Readers should consult with their own legal counsel before acting on any of the information presented.