Filipino American nurse wins $41 million retaliation lawsuit against Kaiser

Filipino American nurse wins $41 million retaliation lawsuit against Kaiser
via Irwan @blogcious on Unsplash
Michelle De Pacina
By Michelle De Pacina
December 14, 2023
Filipino American nurse Maria Gatchalian has won a $41.49 million lawsuit against her former employer, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc. 
The court’s rule: On Monday, the Los Angeles Superior Court panel ruled in favor of Gatchalian and awarded her $11.49 million in compensatory damages, including $9 million for emotional distress and $30 million in punitive damages. 
What happened: After three decades of service as a registered and charge nurse for the Woodland Hills Kaiser Permanente Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Los Angeles, Gatchalian was terminated in 2019 over a minor policy violation. 
Gatchalian filed a lawsuit in April 2021, asserting that her termination was in retaliation for raising concerns about the quality of care and patient safety, primarily due to alleged understaffing at Kaiser.
Kaiser’s claim: Kaiser maintained that Gatchalian allegedly placed her bare feet on a medical device for sick or premature newborns. The defense argued that her conduct was unacceptable, especially as she was a charge nurse. Kaiser claimed to have lost confidence in her and made the decision to terminate her.
The trial: During the trial, witnesses supported claims of understaffing at the facility. Gatchalian’s lawyer, David deRubertis, argued that staffing issues in healthcare are linked to care quality. The lawsuit alleged Kaiser discouraged formal complaints using the standard procedure about patient safety and quality, aiming to avoid investigation.
“Maria had the courage to speak up about patient safety but Kaiser tried to silence her,” deRubertis told Inquirer.net. “This diligent jury spoke in a loud and clear voice telling Kaiser that it needs to put patients over profits.”
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