Fired nurse wins $41.5M wrongful termination lawsuit

A nurse who sued a Kaiser Permanente hospital for firing her has won a jury award of more than $41 million.

Former Kaiser Permanente nurse Maria Gatchalian will receive $11.49 million in compensatory damages from her ex-employer, $9 million of which is to make amends for emotional distress, along with some $30 million in punitive damages.

According to numerous accounts, Gatchalian was terminated after resting her bare feet in a clear plastic incubator called an isolette. The small, crib-like device is used to keep infants warm and protected from germs.

At the time, Gatchalian was a charge nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at Woodland Hills Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Los Angeles.

When she sued in 2021, Gatchalian maintained that her real “offense” was filing complaints with hospital leadership about what she deemed dangerous understaffing prior to the feet-resting incident.

The firing, she claimed, was an act of retaliation by the hospital. Her “minor policy violation” supplied a convenient excuse for terminating her employment, she suggested. reports that, during the trial, “multiple witnesses” backed up Gatchalian’s claim of understaffing.

The outlet quotes Gatchalian’s attorney as saying that his client “had the courage to speak up about patient safety, but Kaiser tried to silence her.”

More from the plaintiff’s lawyer:

“This diligent jury spoke in a loud and clear voice telling Kaiser that it needs to put patients over profits. We hope this verdict will get Kaiser to focus more on patient safety and quality of care and less on the business of medicine.”

For its part, Kaiser says through its lawyers that Gatchalian’s conduct on the job was “unacceptable, made even more so by the fact that she was a charge nurse, a leader of the nursing team and a long-term employee who knew better.”

To this, Kaiser Permanente senior VP Murtaza Sanwari adds in prepared remarks:

“The allegations in this lawsuit are at odds with the facts we showed in the courtroom. We stand by her termination and are surprised and disappointed in the verdict.”

Sanwari says the institution will appeal the decision.

Dave Pearson

Dave P. has worked in journalism, marketing and public relations for more than 30 years, frequently concentrating on hospitals, healthcare technology and Catholic communications. He has also specialized in fundraising communications, ghostwriting for CEOs of local, national and global charities, nonprofits and foundations.

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