Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

$4 Million Verdict For Nurse Manager Trying To Control OR Environment

An operating room is a place of high drama, and if one can believe what one hears and reads, often a place of high jinks as well. In what may be a story that feels way too close to home to many hospital administrators, it took a Norfolk, VA jury only 90 minutes to award $4 million to a nursing manager who was asked to resign after counseling an OR nurse because of the "sexually charged" environment in the OR. The nurse had been seen kissing and hugging a doctor and massaging his neck, back and legs. The nurse resigned after the counseling and threatened legal action.

Shortly thereafer the nursing manager, Stephanie Denninghoff, was asked to resign and six days later, the nurse was rehired. The Virginian Pilot has the full story. Although not mentioned in the story, my guess is that most administrators are asking themselves what role the physician may have played in all this.

The closing argument that was apparently not in tune with this jury was the hospital's lawyer's explanation of what happens in the tense environment of the operating room:
``You get some relief sometimes through a variety of physical contact,'' he told the jury during closing statements. ``What evidence is there of a sexually charged environment? It was just hugging.''
Evidently, this jury felt there was enough.


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