Dr. Vittal Shenoy, a pathologist formerly employed by Carolinas Pathology Group (CPG) and now working for Carolina Urology Partners, filed a lawsuit against CPG and Carolinas Healthcare System (CHS) alleging his First Amendment rights were retaliated against by both parties; tortious interference of his employment contract with CPG by CHS; and a False Claims Act retaliation claim against CPG. A district court dismissed both CPG and CHS from the case. Dr. Vittal appealed; the appellate court agreed with the district court and upheld the decision to dismiss both parties from the case just last week.
Quite a bit of background is necessary.
Dr. Shenoy worked at a hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina that was purchased by CHS; his partner worked at another Charlotte hospital that was also bought out by CHS.
CPG covered two different CHS-owned hospitals in Charlotte. In 1995, CHS decided to consolidate its pathology contract and invited Shenoy’s group and CPG to submit bids.
Before CHS had even awarded the contract, Shenoy filed a corporate compliance complaint against CPG, alleging it engaged in “improper billing practices”. CPG was eventually awarded the contract despite the complaint, and hired Shenoy’s partner; Shenoy was, not surprisingly, not offered a job.
The director of the hospital where Shenoy worked spoke with CPG on Shenoy’s behalf, and CPG eventually offered him a job. He remained at the same hospital and became lab director.
About seven years later, while chairing a Quality Improvement Committee meeting at the hospital, Shenoy apparently took heated exception to the manner in which the hospital administration was running the hospital, which, in Shenoy’s opinion, led to too many sentinel events, and that too much blame was being placed on physicians for the problems.
The manner in which Shenoy expressed his displeasure was deemed unprofessional and unacceptable by hospital administrators, some of whom were physically present at the meeting.