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Khajavi v Feather River Anesthesia Medical Group case

1.Official Citations
NOSRAT KHAJAVI: Plaintiff, Appellant and Respondent, vs. FEATHER RIVER ANESTHESIA MEDICAL GROUP: Appellant, Defendants and Respondents.

APPEAL from the judgment of the Superior Court of Sutter County, Perry Parker, Judge. Reversed, in part; remanded, in part; and affirmed, in part.

Weintraub Genshlea & Sproul, Rosemary Kelley, Charles L. Post, and William S. Jue, for Plaintiff Nosrat Khajavi.

Biegler Opper & Ortiz, Robert P. Biegler and Jesse S. Ortiz, III, for Defendant Feather River Anesthesia Medical Group.

Wilke, Fleury, Hoffelt, Gould & Birney, David A. Frenznick and Anthony J. DeCristoforo, for Defendant Robert Del Pero.

Catherine I. Hanson and Astrid G. Meghrigian, Amicus Curiae for California Medical Association in support of Appellant Khajavi.

Shortly after plaintiff Nosrat Khajavi (Khajavi), an anesthesiologist, and defendant, Robert Del Pero, a surgeon, engaged in an altercation over the wisdom of proceeding with a particular surgery, defendant Feather River Anesthesia Medical Group (Feather River) terminated Khajavi’s employment. At trial, the court non-suited Khajavi’s claims that defendants Feather River and Robert Del Pero had discharged him, and conspired to discharge him, in violation of public policy — that is, in retaliation for advocating “medically appropriate health care” in violation of Business and Professions Code section 2056.

2.Case in Brief
Issues
The Court had to decide whether Business and Professional Code § 2056 can be applied to a disagreement between two physicians regarding how to medically treat a patient, or if § 2056 only applies to disputes between physicians and third party or healthcare payors. Business and Professional Code § 2056 provides protection against retaliation for physicians who advocate for medically appropriate healthcare for their patients. Feather River breached its oral employment contract with Khajavi, entered in September 1995. Defendants conspired to retaliate against khajavi for advocating medically appropriate health care. Rules Pertaining to issues.

section 2056, subdivision (c), covers a decision to both “terminate an employment” or “otherwise penalize” a physician in retaliation for that physician’s advocacy of medically appropriate health care. An employer who acts in good faith on an honest but mistaken belief that discharge of an employee is required by a legitimate business reason has not breached the employment contract. section 2056, subdivision (c), covers a decision to both “terminate an employment” or “otherwise penalize” a physician in retaliation for that physician’s advocacy of medically appropriate health care. Because tort liability arising from conspiracy presupposes that the coconspirator is legally capable of committing the tort (because he owes a duty to the plaintiff recognized by law and is thus potentially subject to liability for a breach of that duty), we hold that a third party who is not (and never was) the plaintiff’s employer cannot be liable for conspiracy to wrongfully terminate the plaintiff’s employment in violation of public policy.” Analysis

The discharge of an employee in contravention of fundamental public policy, as expressed in a statute or constitutional provision, can serve as the basis for a tort action for wrongful discharge. (Gantt v. Sentry Insurance, supra, 1 Cal. 4th at pp. 1094-1097; see Rojo v. Kliger (1990) 52 Cal. 3d 65, 88-91 [276 Cal.Rptr. 130, 801 P.2d 373].) Accordingly, since section 2056 expresses a public policy to protect physicians and surgeons from retaliation for advocating medically appropriate health care, a wrongful [84 Cal. App. 4th 52] discharge action can be premised on a termination in violation of that public policy. fn.

In this case, there was sufficient evidence adduced at trial from which the jury could have concluded (1) that the termination of Khajavi’s employment with Feather River was principally the result of his disagreement with Robert Del Pero concerning the cataract surgery, and (2) that Khajavi’s disagreement constituted a “protest … [of] a decision, policy or practice” that Khajavi reasonably believed, consistent with the standards of his profession, impaired his ability to provide medically appropriate health care to a patient within the meaning of section 2056. Indeed, the trial court had considered the evidence sufficient to go to the jury on this claim before it erroneously narrowed its interpretation of section 2056.

The discharge of an employee in contravention of fundamental public policy, as expressed in a statute or constitutional provision, can serve as the basis for a tort action for wrongful discharge. (Gantt v. Sentry Insurance, supra, 1 Cal. 4th at pp. 1094-1097; see Rojo v. Kliger (1990) 52 Cal. 3d 65, 88-91 [276 Cal.Rptr. 130, 801 P.2d 373].) Accordingly, since section 2056 expresses a public policy to protect physicians and surgeons from retaliation for advocating medically appropriate health care, a wrongful [84 Cal. App. 4th 52] discharge action can be premised on a termination in violation of that public policy.

In this case, there was sufficient evidence adduced at trial from which the jury could have concluded (1) that the termination of Khajavi’s employment with Feather River was principally the result of his disagreement with Robert Del Pero concerning the cataract surgery, and (2) that Khajavi’s disagreement constituted a “protest … [of] a decision, policy or practice” that Khajavi reasonably believed, consistent with the standards of his profession, impaired his ability to provide medically appropriate health care to a patient within the meaning of section 2056. Indeed, the trial court had considered the evidence sufficient to go to the jury on this claim before it erroneously narrowed its interpretation of section 2056.

The discharge of an employee in contravention of fundamental public policy, as expressed in a statute or constitutional provision, can serve as the basis for a tort action for wrongful discharge. (Gantt v. Sentry Insurance, supra, 1 Cal. 4th at pp. 1094-1097; see Rojo v. Kliger (1990) 52 Cal. 3d 65, 88-91 [276 Cal.Rptr. 130, 801 P.2d 373].) Accordingly, since section 2056 expresses a public policy to protect physicians and surgeons from retaliation for advocating medically appropriate health care, a wrongful [84 Cal. App. 4th 52] discharge action can be premised on a termination in violation of that public policy.

In this case, there was sufficient evidence adduced at trial from which the jury could have concluded (1) that the termination of Khajavi’s employment with Feather River was principally the result of his disagreement with Robert Del Pero concerning the cataract surgery, and (2) that Khajavi’s disagreement constituted a “protest … [of] a decision, policy or practice” that Khajavi reasonably believed, consistent with the standards of his profession, impaired his ability to provide medically appropriate health care to a patient within the meaning of section 2056. Indeed, the trial court had considered the evidence sufficient to go to the jury on this claim before it erroneously narrowed its interpretation of section 2056.

Conclusion.
The Court disagreed with the hospital’s interpretation of the code and stated that § 2056 does not limit its protection to disputes between physicians and healthcare or third party payors. The Court explained that under § 2056, it is the state’s public policy two encourage two types of physician advocacy for medically appropriate health care. First, a physician can appeal from a payor’s decision to deny payment. Second, a physician can protest a decision, policy, or practice that the physician reasonably believes impairs his or her ability to provide medically appropriate health care. Basically, under § 2056, a physician has a broad right to object to his or her employer’s decision, policy, or practice if the physician reasonably believes that to not object and proceed would hurt his ability to provide the proper and appropriate medical care to a patient. If an employer of a physician terminates a physician because he or she has enacted this broad right, then that employer has violated public policy of the state. The Court’s decision here is a good result for doctors as it ensures that doctors can provide honest and proper medical care to their patients without fear of losing their job.

Starzinski and Capital Public Radio.

Official Citation
CHARLES STARZYNSKI, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT, v. CAPITAL PUBLIC RADIO, INC., DEFENDANT AND RESPONDENT

ISSUE:

1.Whether Starzynski was wrongfully discharged from his position. 2. Whethe Starzynski ‘s discharge was constructive.

RULE:

1.“judgment is properly granted when there is no triable issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 437c(c). A defendant or cross-defendant has met his or her burden of showing that a cause of action has no merit if that party has shown that one or more elements of the cause of action, even if not separately pleaded, cannot be established. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 437(o)(2). Once the moving party defendant meets its burden, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to show a triable issue of material fact exists. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 437c(o)(2).

On appeal, the reviewing court exercises its independent judgment, deciding whether undisputed facts have been established that negate the opposing party’s claim or state a complete defense. Cal. Lab. Code § 2922 establishes the presumption that an employer may terminate its employees at will, for any or no reason. A fortiori, the employer may act peremptorily, arbitrarily, or inconsistently, without providing specific protections such as prior warning, fair procedures, objective evaluation, or preferential reassignment”.

2.“Constructive discharge occurs when the employer’s conduct effectively forces an employee to resign. Although the employee may say, “I quit,” the employment relationship is actually severed involuntarily by the employer’s acts, against the employee’s will. As a result, a constructive discharge is legally regarded as a firing rather than a resignation. An employee cannot simply “quit and sue,” claiming he or she was constructively discharged. The conditions giving rise to the resignation must be sufficiently extraordinary and…

 

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