November 30, 2015

Tenth Circuit: Internal Corporate Policy Could not Provide Basis for Wrongful Discharge in Violation of Public Policy Claim

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion in Genova v. Banner Health on Tuesday, August 20 2013.

Plaintiff, Dr. Ron Genova, was an emergency room physician for Banner Health (Banner) at a Greeley hospital. Rick Sutton was the administrator who discontinued Genova’s services, citing unprofessional behavior prior to and when Genova called him to say the emergency room should be temporarily closed to new patients because it was too busy. Genova sued Banner and Rick Sutton, alleging state law claims and retaliation against him for complaining about overcrowded emergency room conditions, and that the hospital’s conduct violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA). The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants.

The Tenth Circuit found that the plain language of EMTALA did not provide a cause of action for Genova as it prohibits hospitals dumping patients, not holding on to too many patients.

The court also found Genova’s state law claims failed because he had a contract with Banner that expressly waived any right to sue Banner for any claims related to the termination of his medical staff membership. Genova argued the enforcement of this release violated public policy. In considering this claim, the court overlooked the fact that Genova was not an employee of Banner. The court found the two sources of public policy identified by Genova did not apply. His reading of EMTALA was incorrect and the hospital’s internal corporate policy could not provide a wrongful discharge in violation of public policy claim because they are clearly not public. The court affirmed.

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