Employment & Labour

N.S. appeal court 'vindicates' cardiologist

By AdvocateDaily.com Staff

A recent finding from the highest court in Nova Scotia "completely vindicates" a Halifax cardiologist who successfully sued the former Capital District Health Authority after her hospital privileges were reduced, her counsel, Toronto lawyer Michael Wright, tells CBC News.

Though the physician lost her appeal to also sue for breach of contract and the court partially allowed the health authority's appeal, reducing the amount of damages to $800,000 from $1.4 million, Wright says $800,000 is still the highest award for loss of reputation in the country.

The jury's award of $167,000 for legal fees incurred by the cardiologist to restore her privileges between 2002 and 2006 was not disturbed by the appeal court, says CBC.

"The court is saying this is the most serious damage to reputation that we've ever seen in Canada and we're going to compensate [her] accordingly,” says Wright, of Wright Henry LLP.

He comments after the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal released its decision on Tuesday.

The legal dispute goes back to 2002 when the cardiologist had high-profile research grants; she claimed that colleagues tried to add their names to her research papers, and that when she refused, her privileges at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre were changed so she was unable to continue her research, says the article. She took legal action to sue the health authority for loss of reputation and career, says the public broadcaster.

It took a decade for the matter to get to court for a 33-day trial, after which a jury in June 2016 awarded her $1.4 million in damages against Capital Health for administrative bad faith, it says.

“It was the largest sum ever awarded in Canada for damages due to loss of reputation and career,” says CBC.

The provincial health authority later appealed the decision, it says. The cardiologist also appealed, saying the trial judge erred in instructing the jury not to consider her breach of contract claim, says the article.

Wright says the reduced amount of damages is "disappointing," and explains that it was made smaller because the appeal court found that the trial judge's instructions to the jury were unclear, creating a risk that the jury was confused about which damage claims it needed to consider.

Wright says his client can take solace in the fact that the court validated her claim that she was exposed to bad faith over 15 years.

In an interview with AdvocateDaily.com, he says she can also be comforted by the court's conclusion that she is entitled to "substantial compensation."

In the appeal court ruling, the justices said they were "satisfied that Capital Health's bad faith caused significant and lasting damage to [her] reputation," and concluded the consequences will follow her "well into the future."

"Just as being unethical afflicts the core of a lawyer's professional integrity, being termed a risk to patients pierces the heart of what is expected of a physician. It is hard to imagine a more vital blow to a medical professional's station," said the judgment.

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