Jury awards $3M to fired nurse who complained of 'rushing patients through' to save money
A Portland jury on Friday awarded a nurse more than $3 million -- agreeing that she was wrongfully terminated by Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center after she complained to management that cost-cutting measures were jeopardizing patient care.Registered nurse Linda Boly said Saturday that she felt vindicated by the verdict. She hopes it sends a "big message" to Legacy Health System that "rushing patients through" the process endangers them.
During the nearly two-week trial in Multnomah County Circuit Court, Legacy contended that it fired Boly in June 2013 for poor job performance. But her attorney, Mick Seidl, said Boly, 59, had a stellar track record during her 34-year career at the Northwest Portland hospital.
Seidl said Legacy managers all the way up to the top were getting bonuses for staying within budget. In 2013, the year Boly was fired, Legacy CEO Dr. George Brown received a $340,000 bonus, on top of a base salary of about $960,000, according to Legacy's tax records.
Meanwhile, Legacy Health System -- which includes Legacy Good Samaritan, Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in North Portland, Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center in Gresham and others -- was working on overdrive to rein in its biggest expense: its staff, Seidl said.
From December 2012 to June 2013, Boly was written up three times for failing to meet productivity quotas and for "working off of the clock" by completing chart work at the end of the day, Seidl said. Boly contended that she was being singled out -- disciplined when other nurses weren't when they didn't meet quotas or they worked off the clock.
"The jury found those were not the real reasons" she was fired, Seidl said.
Seidl also argued that Boly was deemed "a troublemaker" by management starting in 2005, when she started working to pass Oregon's Nurse Staffing Law, which was designed to give nurses more influence over decisions that might affect patient care. Boly testified before the state Legislature twice -- using real-life examples from her job at Good Samaritan -- and that riled management.
A 12-person jury awarded Boly $916,000 in lost wages up until a retirement age of 67, $625,000 for emotional distress and $1.5 million in punitive damages. Under Oregon law, 70 percent of the $1.5 million in punitive damages will go to the state.
On top of that, Legacy will be ordered to pay Boly's attorney's fees, which Seidl estimates at about $500,000.