Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

"No Good Deed Goes Unpunished" - Now Judicially Recognized

It is not uncommon for practitioners in the area of human resources (both lawyers and non-lawyers) to comment, only sometimes jokingly, that "no good deed goes unpunished." And now, perhaps for the first time there is now judicial recognition (albeit in a footnote):
11Indeed, the Clinic’s actions to which Doctor refers as waiver clearly appear to be gratuitous acts of kindness in unilaterally extending her medical coverage—— yet another example of the maxim that no good deed goes unpunished.
Cooper v. Kelsey Seybold Medical Group P.A. (5th Cir. 7/26/04) [pdf].

Here the dispute between a physician employee and the employer physician group had a number of claims and issues, but the focal point of the "good deed" comment was the employment agreement, which had the following termination clause:

In any event, this Agreement is automatically terminated upon . . . your disability lasting longer than three (3)calendar months that prevents you from performing the essential functions of your position with or without accommodation (unless the [Clinic] reviews the circumstances and grants written waiver of termination).

The employee's contention was that two letters written after February 8, 2001 had waived the termination clause. Unfortunately, as the Court forcefully points out, once a contract expires, as it did here by its own terms (or to use the latin ipso facto) on February 8, 2001 there is nothing to waive. Thus, rather than being evidence of a waiver, the two letters in this case were nothing but "good deeds" punished in this case by a lawsuit.

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