Providence owes physician $1 in damages over lost hospital privileges

Providence owes a plastic surgeon just $1 in damages for unlawfully terminating his hospital privileges, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled May 19.

Michael Brandner, MD, had hospital privileges at Renton, Wash.-based Providence from 1995 to 2009 and at two other local hospitals. In 2009, Dr. Brandner had emergency open-heart surgery and took a leave of absence from his practice, returning to work in 2010. However, Dr. Brandner was not approved to resume hand surgeries at Providence, and his surgical caseload decreased after his return — but his caseload at the two local hospitals increased. 

In 2011, Providence ended Dr. Brandner's hospital privileges without a hearing. He eventually received a hearing several months later, where his termination was upheld, according to the lawsuit.

As a result, Dr. Brandner sued Providence for medical malpractice to recoup income he allegedly lost as a result of injuries he attributed to his heart surgery. During the hearing, Dr. Brandner stated that "all [his] lost earnings," were caused by medical problems following the surgery. The malpractice suit was unsuccessful. 

However, Dr. Brandner then revamped the suit against Providence, alleging denial of due process, defamation and contract violations for termination of his hospital privileges. The Superior Court ruled against Dr. Brandner on all points; thus, in 2015, he appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court. 

The Alaska Supreme Court in 2015 ruled that Providence violated Dr. Brandner’s procedural due process rights by terminating him before the hearing, remanding the case to the lower court to allow Dr. Brandner to pursue damages for any loss of income between the initial date his privileges were terminated and the hearing that confirmed the termination.

At the lower court damages hearing, Providence presented expert testimony and hospital records stating that Dr. Brandner's economic loss was minimal. Dr. Brandner alleged that he faced an income loss of about $230,000. The court ultimately awarded Dr. Brandner nominal damages.

Dr. Brandner then appealed the nominal damages award to the state Supreme Court, which ruled May 19 that he presented insufficient proof of lost income, upholding the nominal damages award. 

"There was an adequate basis for the trial court’s finding that no actual damages resulted from the improper termination. Therefore, the award of nominal damages was not clearly erroneous," the Alaska Supreme Court ruled. 

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars