Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Whistleblower Physician Awarded $1 in Damages after Hospital Took Retaliatory Action

The US District Court for the District of Maine awarded Dr. Kristine Thayer $1 in damages, plus recovery of attorney's fees and court costs after a jury found that Eastern Maine Medical Center (EMMC) took retaliatory action against her in violation of Maine's Whistleblower Protection Act (Thayer v. Eastern Maine Medical Center).

Thayer, a pediatric surgeon, told her supervisor that pediatric gastroenterologist Dr. Mohammed Tabbah was providing substandard patient care. Following the report, the hospital began an investigation of Dr. Thayer as a disruptive physician and the medical staff executive committee recommended that she attend anger management counseling, with the threat of disciplinary action for further disruptive behavior. Thayer voluntarily chose to leave EMMC.

At trial, the jury found that the supervisor's initiation of peer review was retaliation for Dr. Thayer's actions and a violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act; however, they believe that that she suffered no injury that would entitle her to damages. Thayer filed an amended complaint for damages as well as the cost of court and attorneys' fees.

The district court ruled that Thayer was entitled to court and attorneys' fees. However, they limited her damages to $1, stating that the reinstatement of her professional reputation and the negative reputation cast on EMMC was an appropriate remedy that did not need to be supplemented by a further award of monetary damages.

Source: BNA

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