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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Ind. Decisions - "Jury award upheld against doctor in bullying case"

Yesterday's Supreme Court decision in the case of Daniel H. Raess, M.D. v. Joseph E. Doescher (ILB summary here) is the subject of a story today in the Indianapolis Star by Jeff Swiatek. Some quotes:

The Indiana Supreme Court on Tuesday affirmed a jury award of $325,000 to a former St. Francis Hospital employee who accused a prominent heart surgeon of bullying him.

Joseph E. Doescher, a former heart-and-lung-machine operator, won his case against Dr. Daniel H. Raess. Doescher accused the doctor of yelling at him while on the job. The trial drew national attention as an example of workplace bullying. But the doctor appealed the case, and the Indiana Court of Appeals ordered a new civil trial in 2006.

The 4-1 decision Tuesday by the state's highest court overturned the appellate court's order to hold a new trial. The justices found none of Raess' five appeals claims was valid. They included the claims that testimony by a national expert on workplace bullying shouldn't have been allowed and that the jury award was excessive.

The 11-page Supreme Court decision amounts to a final legal win for Doescher, said one of his attorneys, Sandra Blevins. * * *

The appeals court had held that Marion Superior Court Judge Cale Bradford allowed testimony in the 2005 trial that unfairly prejudiced the jury against Raess.

The disputed testimony by Gary Namie, director of the Workplace Bullying & Trauma Institute in Washington state, "allowed the jury to infer that Raess committed assault because that is what 'bullies' do," the appeals court said in its eight-page ruling.

Doescher claimed a workplace confrontation with Raess led to a severe case of depression and forced him to leave his job, which paid about $100,000 a year. He worked side-by-side with Raess during surgeries, running the heart-and-lung machines that keep patients alive. * * *

The claim of workplace bullying generated much attention from the media and from professional publications such as American Medical News and HR Answers.

Doescher works now in customer service for a health insurer, Blevins said. Raess quit his medical practice and left St. Francis in 2006 to work for a medical device maker.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 9, 2008 08:54 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions