A Denver anesthesiologist who sued her former employer for unlawful retaliation after she was banned from Rose Medical Center and rejected for disability benefits has won $1.7 million in damages.
A 10-member jury in Denver's U.S. District Court deliberated three hours before reaching its verdict Monday evening against Colorado Anesthesia Consultants, one of metro Denver's largest providers of anesthesia services for hospitals.
The jury awarded Dr. Pam McCroskey $500,000 in compensatory damages and an additional $1.2 million in punitive damages.
McCroskey's 1997 lawsuit accused CAC President Dr. Ronald E. Stevens of spearheading a "vicious campaign of retaliation," triggered by McCroskey's support of another female physician's claim of gender discrimination against CAC.
When McCroskey filed a similar sex discrimination charge against CAC following her resignation in 1992, she said Stevens stepped up CAC's smear campaign, resulting in her temporary suspension at Rose and an insurance company's decision to cut off her disability benefits.
"We are considering an appeal," said Stevens in a statement Tuesday.
Stevens said the CAC didn't believe McCroskey, who sustained hand and shoulder injuries in a 1991 operating room mishap, had a legitimate claim for receiving disability insurance benefits.
"The court has found otherwise, but whatever we did was done in good faith," he said.
During the weeklong trial, the defendants denied they engaged in any discriminatory or retaliatory acts banned by federal civil rights law. McCroskey, 48, who worked at CAC for nearly three years, said she was forced to resign after she was targeted by Stevens as a "dissident."
McCroskey's disability benefits, which amounted to several thousands dollars a month, were cut off in 1994. When her insurance carrier said its decision was based on "extensive information" provided by Stevens, she filed a retaliation charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
McCroskey's attorney Darold Killmer said his client was prepared to drop her case against CAC until she learned that CAC doctors had pulled strings at Rose to get her suspended over an inaccurate scheduling entry she made in a patient's medical record.
Although she was reinstated and exonerated by the hospital's disciplinary board six months later, Killmer said there was an implication that McCroskey's suspension was caused by a "drug problem."
"That was tremendously damaging to her career," said Killmer, "and I think the jury's award reflects their anger that CAC would reach so far out to do something like that."
Killmer said U.S. District Judge Wiley Daniel will decide in a separate hearing an additional award of economic damages. "Dr. McCroskey had substantial economic losses as well, and that wasn't part of the verdict. It's in the hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Under civil rights rules, McCroskey also is entitled to an award of attorney fees, which Killmer said may approach $200,000.