Kadlec Medical Center in Richland, Washington hired Dr. Robert Lee Berry as an anesthesiologist based upon a glowing recommendation from his former colleague, William J. Preau III, MD. Preau wrote in his letter of recommendation:
“He is an excellent anesthesiologist. He is capable in all fields of anesthesia including OB, peds, C.V. and all regional blocks. I recommend him highly.”
Dr. Preau’s recommendation of Berry helped him land the job at Kadlec, but unfortunately, it did not reveal the truth about Berry, that he was fired from Louisiana Anesthesia Associates because his colleagues felt that he had a drug problem and was known to divert patient’s Demerol, an opiod pain killer, for himself.
While at Kadlec, Dr. Berry committed an egregious medical error while anesthetizing Kimberly Jones, 31, and a mother of three, while he was “under the influence.” His medical error left Jones in a permanent vegetative state.
Jones’ family sued Dr. Berry and Kadlec and they won a medical malpractice award of $1M against Berry and $7.5M against Kadlec.
It was then that Kadlec decided to file lawsuit against Dr. Preau and Lakeview Regional Medical Center in Covington, LA to recoup the medical malpractice judgement against them. In their lawsuit, Kadlec claimed that Dr. Preau and Lakeview misled them and were intentional and negligent for failing to disclose Berry’s substance abuse problem. The lawsuit claimed that Lakeview and Preau had a duty to provide crucial information to the prospective employer.
The lower court provided a judgment against Dr. Berry and Lakeview but the judgment against Lakeview was reversed on appeal because the person who provided Lakeview’s evaluation of Berry’s performance claimed that she did not know the reason for Dr. Berry’s termination. The court did, however, uphold the claim against Dr. Preau and ordered him to pay $8.2M to Kadlec.
Dr. Preau probably never imagined he could be on the hook for writing a letter of recommendation.
This information is provided by Washington Injury Attorney blog, a service of The Farber Law Group. We represent people who have been seriously injured due to medical negligence and the family of those who have died.
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