$8.78 Million Awarded to Doctors Fired For Reporting Patient Harm
Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), CHI-Franciscan Healthcare, And Franciscan Medical Group (FMG) Ordered To Pay $8.78 Million Dollars
April 2, 2020 (Seattle, WA) – Two physicians fired for blowing the whistle to management regarding an impaired physician harming patients will receive over $8.78 million dollars from Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), CHI-Franciscan Healthcare, and Franciscan Medical Group (FMG).
Dr. Michael Romney and Dr. Faron Bauer refused to silently allow FMG management to brush patient harm under the rug, and allow an impaired physician to continue practicing without restrictions. On May 19, 2013, both doctors were fired without warning and without cause from the St. Anthony’s Prompt Care in Gig Harbor, Washington. At the time, they were the longest serving providers in all of FMG’s Prompt Care facilities in Washington.
The $8.78 million dollar decision came after a 15-day hearing in Seattle. The Honorable Louise LaMothe, United States Federal Magistrate Judge, acting as a private arbitrator, ruled that Dr. Romney’s and Dr. Bauer’s employers wrongfully discharged them in violation of Washington Public Policy “for reporting and assisting others to report what they and other employees saw as the impairment of a physician.”
“Healthcare providers who sound the alarm to protect public health and patient safety must be heard and protected, especially amid this national crisis and Covid-19 pandemic. It is a matter of life and death,” said Scott Blankenship, lead counsel for the two doctors. “This case should send a loud and clear message to Big Medicine. Retaliation against medical providers like these doctors, who courageously stand up for patient safety, will not go unanswered under the law.”
Witnesses testified about Dr. Romney’s high reputation in the community and that he was “revered by staff and patients.” Dr. Bauer was likewise respected and valued by those who worked with him. He had formerly served as the medical director. Despite being experienced and highly qualified, FMG fired both without notice.
The terminations effectively silenced the other medical providers and the patient harm continued. Even after Dr. Romney and Dr. Bauer filed complaints with the Washington Department of Health and a formal investigation ensued, FMG took actions to protect itself and the same impaired physician continued to practice in an unsafe way. The arbitrator noted that “all the statements [from FMG] were orchestrated to be sure that [the offending physician] escaped any restriction on his license. Of those still employed only the nursing staff reported contrary observations.”
Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) is “the third-largest nonprofit health system in the nation” with over $20 billion in total assets according to its website. It owns CHI-Franciscan and Franciscan Medical Group (FMG), which collectively operates 11 hospitals and multiple clinics in the Western Washington.
Attorneys Scott C. G. Blankenship and Rick Goldsworthy of The Blankenship Law Firm, PLLC represented the two physicians throughout the proceedings, which included two appeals and the arbitration.
The Blankenship Law Firm, PLLC is an award-winning AV-rated law firm located in downtown Seattle with attorneys licensed in Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. The firm’s practice emphasizes employment law and healthcare, including class actions representing employees in all phases of negotiation and litigation.
Documents & Information
Plantiff's Complaint Filed in King County Superior Court
American Arbitration Association Case Information
Case Title: Cindius Romney as Personal Representative for the Estate Of Michael Romney; et al, Claimants vs. Franciscan Medical Group, et al., Respondents
Court Case Number: 01-18-0001-4763
Lawsuit Filed: 04/11/2018
Claimants: CINDIUS ROMNEY as PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE for the ESTATE OF MICHAEL ROMNEY; FARON BAUER; and KRISTEN CHILDRESS, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Claimants
Respondents: FRANCISCAN MEDICAL GROUP, a Washington Corporation; FRANCISCAN HEALTH SYSTEM, a Washington Corporation; FRANCISCAN HEALTH VENTURES, a Washington Corporation; FRANCISCAN NORTHWEST PHYSICIANS HEALTH NETWORK, LLC, a Washington Corporation; and CATHOLIC HEALTH INITIATIVES, a Colorado Corporation, Respondents
King County Superior Court Lawsuit Information
Case Title: Cindius Romney et al. V. Franciscan Medical Group, et al.
Court Case Number: 13-2-38634-8-KNT
Lawsuit Filed: 11/13/2013
Court: King County Superior Court
Plaintiff: Michael Romney, Faron Bauer; and Kristin Childress, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated
Defendant: FRANCISCAN MEDICAL GROUP, a Washington Corporation; FRANCISCAN HEALTH SYSTEM, a Washington Corporation; FRANCISCAN HEALTH VENTURES, a Washington Corporation; FRANCISCAN NORTHWEST PHYSICIANS HEALTH NETWORK, LLC, a Washington Corporation; and CATHOLIC HEALTH INITIATIVES, a Colorado Corporation