Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fighting Against Powerful People

I love representing nurses.  Most nurses go to nursing school because they have a desire to help others.  They don't have big egos, or they would have gone to medical school.  Many of the nurses I have represented are every bit as intelligent as the doctors they work for, but they want to be in the trenches.  They want to be comforting the patients.  These nurses are not content to glance at a patient and bark orders.  They comfort and nurture their patients.  They have a passion, a calling, to care for others.

I represented a nurse we will call Sherry (not her real name).  Sherry has years of nursing experience.  She had worked in a hospital and in clinics.  When I represented her, she was working in a doctors' office.  Sherry is a very pretty woman, with a warm smile and a caring heart.  She was assigned to work for a doctor, a male, who apparently felt Sherry was his for the taking.  When Sherry would bend over to get supplies, he would grind his groin into her backside.  This doctor tried to lure Sherry into his office.  On the one time he was able to do so, he fondled and kissed Sherry until she was able to wrest away from him.

Sherry worked for a large corporation which owned the hospital and the many doctors' offices.  Sherry was afraid to complain, though, because the doctor was one of her bosses.  The supervisor of the nurses was a woman who spent a day a week in the office, so she told the nurses that the receptionist was the supervisor's "eyes and ears."  Sherry told the receptionist what was happening.  Nothing happened.

When Sherry came to me, she was at her wit's end.  When we brought the case, I thought the harassment was evident.  The lawyer representing the corporation asked me to come to the hospital for a settlement conference, along with the doctor's lawyer.  Once I got there, the doctor's lawyer but a video in a VCR and started playing a videotape of my client have sex with a former boyfriend who had never worked with her.  I was outraged. They were trying to intimidate Sherry by showing the tape the lawyer had bought from the former boyfriend for $100. Obviously, we did not settle the case then.

Sherry was willing to fight.  I went to the judge and we got the tape excluded from evidence.  I took many depositions.  In employment cases, it is hard to find current employees who will corroborate the plaintiff's story, since the current employee's job is at stake.  Sherry was so beloved by her co-workers, they came out in droves, corroborating Sherry's story.  At the end of the discovery, the defendants filed a motion to throw the case out because Sherry had reported the harassment to the receptionist and not to the supervisor.  The federal judge in charge of the case threw the case out.

Sherry was willing to fight.  We filed an appeal in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the judge who threw the case out was overturned.  We were back and  headed to court for a trial.

As trial drew near, we resolved the case.  I can't relay how.  Mind you, both the doctor and the hospital were defendants.  The doctor left the clinic.  I am proud of Sherry and amazed by her fortitude. Sherry fought the doctor, the hospital, the sleazy lawyer who got the video, and the trial judge, all of the way to the Court of Appeals, and won.

She took her money and with part of it took a much needed vacation to Venezuela.  Sherry stayed in nursing and studied for and received licensure as a Registered Nurse.  She was a fighter, not a whiner nor a complainer.  People with power sometimes think they can take advantage of those less fortunate.  In Sherry's case, she proved them wrong.

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