Category Archives: Health Care

Case Law: Fahlen v. Sutter Central Valley Hospitals

Attorney Case Law Update: Fahlen v. Sutter Central Valley Hospitals – California Court of Appeal. Branigan Robertson is a California labor lawyer who focuses his practice on whistleblowers, overtime issues, hostile work environment, and wrongful termination. Contact the firm for a free consultation.

Facts of the Case

Dr. Mark Fahlen reported to hospital authorities that some of his nurses at Memorial Medical Center failed to follow his instructions. In some instances, he believed that the nurses endangered his patients’ lives. One nurse refused to follow Fahlen’s order to use a defibrillator on a patient. Another disobeyed his order to transfer a patient to intensive care.

The hospital’s COO allegedly blamed Fahlen and helped persuade the group to fire him. The hospital then declined to renew Fahlen’s staff privileges. A judicial review committee of six physicians reviewed the nonrenewal of Fahlen’s staff privileges. They found no professional incompetence and reversed the decision. Then the hospital board reversed the committee. The board found that Fahlen’s conduct was not acceptable and was “directly related to the quality of medical care at the Hospital.” This outcome was reported to the Medical Board of California. Fahlen did not file a petition for a writ of mandate challenging the decision. Instead, he filed this lawsuit, asserting a section 1278.5 claim among others.

One Issue in the Case

Health & Safety Code § 1278.5 is a whistleblower protection law designed to encourage health care workers (not just doctors!) to notify authorities of “suspected unsafe patient care and conditions.” I’ve written about this powerful Health & Safety Code statute before.

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