On September 18, 2015, at the conclusion of a jury trial that lasted nearly two weeks, an Oregon jury returned its verdict in favor of an Oregon nurse who had filed suit against the hospital system where she had formerly worked, alleging that the hospital system cut corners to save money that threatened patients’ health and well-being.
The defendant hospital system claimed that the plaintiff had been fired in June 2013 due to poor job performance, but the jury saw through the defendant’s subterfuge and determined that the nurse had been fired due to her complaints to management that the hospital was putting its profits over patients.
The 12-person jury awarded the 59-year-old plaintiff, who had worked as a highly-respected nurse for 34 years before her wrongful termination, $916,000 for lost wages to age of 67, $625,000 for her emotional distress, and $1.5 million in punitive damages (under Oregon law, the State of Oregon will receive 70% of the punitive damages award). The plaintiff is also entitled to reimbursement for her attorneys fees, which are approximately $500,000.
The defendant hospital had reportedly engaged in cost-cutting measures that focused on its biggest budget expense – its employees. In late 2011, the defendant hospital announced that it intended to terminate 400 employees, including its most highly paid staff – nurses (the plaintiff was the highest paid nurse in the hospital unit where she worked, earning $88,000 per year).
The defendant hospital also implemented “quotas” that placed limits on the amount of time that nurses had to complete their patient care responsibilities. The plaintiff testified during trial that she would spend time with a patient above the quota if the patient’s needs required the additional time.
The plaintiff alleged that she was particularly targeted by the defendant hospital due to her high salary, and that she was written up on three occasions between December 2012 and June 2013 for failing to meet her productivity quotas, while other nurses were not disciplined for their failures to meet their quotas, and that she was also disciplined for working off the clock at the end of the day to complete her patient charting responsibilities, yet other nurses were not disciplined for the same activities.
The plaintiff’s attorney contended that the defendant hospital’s managers at all levels received bonuses if they met cost-cutting goals – in 2013, the defendant hospital’s CEO received a bonus in the amount of $340,000, which was in addition to his base salary that was approximately $960,000.
The plaintiff’s attorney argued to the Oregon jury that the plaintiff had been targeted as a troublemaker by the defendant hospital beginning in 2005, when the plaintiff started working on Oregon’s Nursing Staff Law, which was intended to provide nurses greater influence over decisions that may have an effect on patient care. The plaintiff’s efforts in support of the law included testifying on two occasions before the Oregon Legislature regarding the need for the law, including her experiences at the defendant hospital.
After the Oregon jury returned its verdict in her favor, the plaintiff stated that she hopes that the verdict will send a big message to the defendant hospital that it cannot rush through patients that may cause them harm.
If you or a loved one may be the victim of hospital medical negligence in Oregon or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find an Oregon medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your hospital malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case against a hospital, if appropriate.
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