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Cardiologist wins $1.58M wrongful firing judgment

February 1, 2016

An Indianapolis jury recently awarded a cardiologist fired from St. Vincent Medical Group $1.58 million after a two-week trial on his allegations of wrongful termination, breach of contract, tortious interference and other claims.

Dr. Roderick Sawyer practiced in Anderson for 15 years until July 2011, when his employment was terminated without warning during a brief meeting with officials at St. Vincent Medical Group, according to the complaint. The group a year earlier purchased the assets of The Care Group, in which Sawyer had been a partner and shareholder.

Sawyer was terminated about a year after signing a 10-year contract with St. Vincent Medical Group with annual estimated compensation of $450,000. St. Vincent cited Sawyer’s “continued failure to comply with SVMG’s policies, guidelines and expectations around appropriate coding services and medical record documentation” and unspecified “office management style and unprofessional behavior.”

But attorney Kevin Betz of Betz + Blevins said expert testimony at trial indicated Sawyer’s coding practices were on par with many other cardiologists who were not subject to discipline, and SVMG lacked a written coding compliance plan.

The suit also alleged SVMG failed to redeem Sawyer’s interest in The Care Group Heart Hospital in a timely manner.

The jury before Judge David Dreyer in Marion Superior Court 10 found in favor of Sawyer on Jan. 22. Jurors ordered St. Vincent Medical Group to pay $1,112,152. The jury awarded damages against The Care Group Heart Hospital in the amount of $470,000.

Betz said Sawyer is now practicing at Dukes Hospital in Peru, Indiana.

Hall Render Killian Heath & Lyman P.C. attorney Norris Cunningham represents St. Vincent and Care Group and said he had no comment on the jury verdict. He said the clients are evaluating the verdict and he could not comment on whether it will be appealed.
 

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