I Volunteered for the Hospital Board and was Sued for Millions.

The telephone rang. Why would he be calling? Must be a misdial, I figured. I  hadn’t worked with him in several years, and we were never known to make social calls back when we did work together.

That call was no mistake. What he had to say made me simultaneously queasy, fearful, and angry. It felt like the first couple loops on a rollercoaster ride I I didn’t sign up for. I had no idea at the time that I would be stuck on this coaster for years.

He had been sued. I had been sued. A few dozen other people whose names appeared in the Hospital Board minutes over the previous ten or so years had been sued. And we were being sued for tens of millions of dollars.

A few weeks later, I would receive the four-inch thick packet prepared by lawyers representing the trustee of the bankruptcy. A hospital that I had worked for had gone bankrupt two years earlier, and those who were owed money by the defunct hospital were looking to collect.

The hospital couldn’t possibly pay, so they went after the doctors and administrators who had served on the Board. Each and every one of us was accused of breaching a fiduciary duty to keep the hospital afloat.

 

I Volunteered for the Hospital Board.

 

How did I end up in this position?

In 2007, I worked a long-term locum tenens job at a small community hospital close to my wife’s extended family. It was not exactly a thriving community, but there was a lot to like in this small town, and they were in need of a full-time anesthesiologist.

By the time my temporary stint was up, I had signed on to return as the chief of anesthesia and the only anesthesiologist in the county. In hindsight, I realize it was a naive thought, but I believed my rarity meant real job security.

I also believed the place was in great financial shape, just as I was told when I formally interviewed. It would only be a matter of time before they added a dialysis unit, they said, a great place for my wife to use her dietitian skills. A beautiful clinic had recently been added on to give the front of the hospital a modern all-glass look, and there was talk of adding an outpatient surgical center; I might even be given a chance to invest!

After a couple years and a virtual carousel of administrators, it became clear that my “permanent” job might not be. Facing increasing operating losses, the hospital had dropped obstetrics, debts were mounting, and I was one of the higher paid independent contractors in town.

The President-Elect of our Medical Staff left for a more secure situation. I was asked to assume his role, which would be an appointed position in this situation.

Well, of course I wanted to be next in line to be the President of the Medical Staff. I had plenty of experience volunteering on the Quality Committee and Medical Executive Committee, and there’s no way they hospital would let the President-Elect go no matter how dire the situation, right? More job security, I figured. I gladly signed on to a more prominent role.

My position included an observational, non-voting role on the hospital’s Board of Trustees. I was being groomed for the Presidency, but I had to walk before I could run. With the fragile state of the hospital’s finances, the Board was meeting more frequently and for longer periods of time.

I had a toddler and infant at home and I was taking solo call every 3rd night and every 2nd or 3rd weekend with no post-call day off. I was burning the candle at both ends, but I knew it would all work out in the end. We had built our dream home, started a family, and were determined to see this through. We weren’t about to bail; we had made this town our new hometown.

 

The Hospital Let Me Go

 

The telephone rang. This was nearly three years prior to that other phone call, but it was a similar sock to the stomach. I was out of a job. Within a year, everyone else who worked there was out of a job, and the hospital was closed.

 

bankrupt hospital

actual photo of my former workplace

 

I would be paid for the next three months and expected to work the next two. I dutifully finished out those last eight weeks, attended my last two Board meetings, and returned to the locums circuit.

We landed on our feet of course, and by the time I was notified of the lawsuit, we had moved twice and were getting settled into what I can now say is likely my final “permanent” anesthesia job.

 

I Was Sued for Millions.

 

I experienced some intense emotions in those initial weeks after I was notified of the lawsuit.

Anger. How could they do this to me? I didn’t even have a vote! I was never compensated with anything better than a sandwich. We wanted nothing more than to see the hospital to survive and to remain in place. How dare they!?!

Fear. Could I really lose millions? I don’t even have millions. What’s the next step? How soon ’til it’s over?

Regret. How did I fail to see the writing on the wall? Why did take a seat on the Board at the busiest time of my career while starting a family? Why did I give up so much of my time only to be paid back like this?

Hope. There’s no way I could actually be held liable. I was on the Board for under a year and never voted on a single thing. They’ll be reasonable and dismiss me when as soon as the extremely limited role I had on that Board is better understood.

 

The Neverending Lawsuit

 

I made some phone calls and learned that a former Board Member with a similarly limited role had been dismissed. The President-Elect who had served a longer term before I took over was not even named in the lawsuit. I contacted the lawyer who had helped a fellow Board member in his successful quest for an early dismissal from the suit.

My new lawyer and I had a pleasant chat. Many of his family members were physicians and this action by the Trustee made him sick. He offered to write a letter on my behalf free of charge. Like me, he was hopeful that would be the end of it for me.

It wasn’t.

As a highly paid specialist, the Trustee’s lawyer was not about to let me off the hook. Instead, he asked me to provide a detailed list of my assets. Twice. I declined both times.

Over the following months, there were conference calls among lawyers, frequent e-mails, and glimmers of hope always followed by a kick of the can down the road.

The lawsuit bounced back and forth between the bankruptcy court and federal district court. The Trustee refused to accept that our Directors and Officers (D&O) insurance did not cover us in the event of a bankruptcy, which is what the bankruptcy court had ruled. Ultimately, I believe the Trustee was most interested in an insurance settlement, but it was my name on the docket and my finacial future at stake.

Months turned into years. My legal fees increased from three to four to five figures. Our stress level waxed and waned with each and every turn and loop-de-loop on the seemingly never-ending rollercoaster, but not a week went by that I wasn’t reminded that the ride had not yet come to a complete stop.

 

Redemption. At Last.

 

In the fall of 2017, three and a half years after I was sued and more than six years since I had served on the Board, I received glorious news. A judge had granted me dismissal with prejudice and barring an appeal, I would be free and clear of the lawsuit for good. My dismissal was not appealed.

I was ecstatic to step off that costly ride but saddened to hear that numerous friends remained on this nightmare of a ride for yet another pass. The lawsuit is still ongoing, and a number of my former colleagues are waiting for this unamusement park to close its doors.

 

Lessons Learned After Being Sued for Millions

 

As a physician who lived with the threat of losing my life’s savings for several years, spending enough on legal fees to buy a nice used RV, I have a better understanding of the phrase “no good deed goes unpunished.”

I used to be quick to say “Yes” to medical staff appointments. I actually took on a similar title as Chief of Anesthesia & Surgery with a spot on the Medical Executive  Committee in my next job. That was before the lawsuit. Now, I am quick to say “No.”

Asset protection is more important than I realized. If you have the letters M.D. behind your name, you have a target on your back. Know which assets of yours are protected and which can be confiscated, and do what you can to minimize the latter.

I’m not saying it’s imperative to create complex irrevocable trusts or shell companies to hide your assets, but simple steps like titling assets together with a spouse may be a good move. Asset protection varies by state, so be sure to consult someone with a working knowledge of your local laws.

Recognize that participation on the Board of a non-profit can open you up to substantial liability. I may be paranoid, but when I was asked to serve on the Board of our local curling club, I swiftly declined. What’s my liability when someone is overserved at the club’s bar, slips on the ice, and cracks a skull? Probably zero, but why take that chance?

If you do serve on a Board, be sure you are provided with adequate Directors & Officers insurance; this should come from the organization.

I know very little about D&O policies, but I now know that insurance that doesn’t cover you in the event of the non-profit filing for bankruptcy is woefully inadequate. Bankruptcy is exactly the sort of event that could be most likely to result in a lawsuit against the Board.

Carry umbrella insurance. I don’t believe it would have helped protect me in this particular case, but the target on a wealthy individual’s back is ever-present, and umbrella insurance can protect from lawsuits related to your home or auto. When I had this lawsuit cloud over my head, my home and auto carrier wouldn’t consider covering me. After my dismissal, I was able to secure $3 Million in coverage at a cost of under $200 a year. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.

This is a story I’ve been wanting to tell for some time, but I was unable to discuss it while still party to the lawsuit. It was a rotten experience that has left me rather jaded, and the ordeal is no doubt a contributing factor to my willingness to walk away from the medical profession at an age where I could continue practicing for another twenty years or more.

Additionally, the lawsuit has been the number one reason I haven’t wanted to publicly associate my name and face with Physician on FIRE.

When the lawyer suing you for millions of dollars keeps asking for a list of your assets, having that list show up in a blog post with a simple Google search of your name is less than desirable. I’m not saying you’ll be seeing my smiling mug in the sidebar tomorrow, but now that this ridiculous lawsuit is behind me, I find I’m smiling a whole lot more.

 

If you know someone who might benefit from learning about my ordeal, please consider sharing via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, etc…

I look forward to your comments below.

 

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120 comments

  • Damn, that really sucks. Glad to read that this nasty ride is over with no change to return. Something like this is not helping your mental health either.

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  • Man, POF, I am sorry to hear about that experience!

    I actually learned a good bit about asset protection from the Fire Your Financial Advisor Course on this subject. But when I thought about that I was thinking about medical malpractice suits…not a law suit for being involved in leadership. That’s insane. Never would have thought about that myself.

    Glad to hear your name is in the clear and that you don’t have to worry about it anymore! Strong work fighting the good fight, and thanks for the honesty!

    • It’s a story I’ve been waiting to tell for quite some time. I hope it helps others to understand risks they may have never considered when it comes to physician leadership and volunteerism.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • No good deed really goes unpunished. Glad to hear you are off the hook!

    I try to stay away from boards. I’m a board member to only 1 organization and I knew the financial situation before joining.

    I see people on LinkedIn who are part of BOD in like 5-10 organizations and I wonder if they know the risks.

    It looks good on a resume but it’s very risky.

    • I don’t know where they find the time!

      I know people who are on multiple for-profit Boards. The risks there may be diffferent as compared to the non-profit world, but I would certainly want to be sure I had appropriate D&O coverage in either case.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • Wow. This article provides a lot to the PoF backstory. I was sued as a resident, and even thought everyone kept telling me “you’ll be dropped soon, don’t worry about it” it still took over a long worrisome year. That was small potatoes compared to this, so I seriously can’t imagine the stress roller coaster you went through.

    I find it hard starting out to say no – figure the more hands you shake, the more opportunities and job security. Never once crossed my mind there could be a legal liability like your situation. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Thank you, LoaMS.

      No matter how unlikely you are to be found at fault, and regardless of what you are told, it is quite unsettling to have something like this following you like a dark cloud year after year.

      Learn the power of No. There are so many thankless jobs to say Yes to.

      Best,
      -PoF

    • JustADoc

      I was sued for an event that happened when I was an intern. My attending was also named, but strangely my supervising resident was not. I was told I would be dropped. The claim was that a test I didn’t and don’t interpret was interpreted incorrectly by the doctor who performed and interpreted the test and therefore acted on incorrectly.

      Depositions ensued. Flurry of activity every few months. ‘You’ll be dropped’, cited again and again.
      Residency Director reviewed chart. ‘You did nothing wrong. Your documentation was excellent and covers everything”

      4 years later I found out a week before the trial date that the case had been settled without my knowledge or consent. I so enjoy putting that on every privileges request/license renewal/certification renewal/insurance contract/etc.
      /s

  • What a living hell that must have been. To have your employer close and lose your job is bad enough. To then get sued for your free help is unbelievable.
    I had a mentor advise me early on to “never serve on a board.” I think I now know why he said that. It has kept me out of some trouble over the years. I volunteer free time but not a full board membership. I’m so glad a judge finally released you from that nightmare.

    • I’m glad people are willing to serve, but I’ll be honest. I can’t see myself volunteering to serve on a Board again anytime soon, and if I ever do, I will absolutely perform some serious due diligence.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • Wow, what a nightmare that must have been!
    Yes great advice make sure to check the D&O policy before you join any board.
    Glad it’s over for you:)

  • Congratulations on being done with that awful lawsuit. How absolutely unfair. Your story is a good warning about serving on boards of directors in general. I was asked to be on the board of directors of my former employer and now here’s another reason I’m glad I turned it down.

  • Drsan1

    Thank you for sharing that, I never would have thought something like that could happen. I figured the hospital solely would be liable, but it makes sense if the hospital is broke…go for the next deep pockets.
    Things like this do deter me from doing locums in general. As a hospitalist there are a lot of hand offs with our work. In a lot of locum jobs you are thrown into these ridiculous situations where your terribly short staffed, the person before you did a crap job…
    The money is usually great but when I think of the likelihood of the lawsuit down the line being much higher than my current job, for now I pass. Thankfully have never been sued, and hopefully never will be.

    • Interesting thoughts on locums, Drsan1. I’ve done extensive locums work as an anesthesiologist, but one benefit is that we take care of our patients in one discrete event from start to finish. Handoffs are rare, and we’re not going to be liable for someone else’s work (or much less likely, at least).

      Best,
      -PoF

  • Thanks for sharing that story and really glad that you’re free and clear of it. I must have really sucked having that black cloud hanging over your head for the last three years. In my opinion our society is just too damn litigious.

  • Vagabond MD

    Wow, what a story! I have served a similar non-voting Board role and also simultaneously seated on the Senior Administrative Team at my Hospital, among other “titles”. All of these positions were, of course, unpaid.

    While I think the risk of being sued is extremely low (you are one-in-a-million, PoF!), the risk of these wasting your time and contributing to your burnout is extremely high. What initially appears to be an honor, having a seat at the “Adult Table”, is little more than a booby prize. And yours let to being sucker punched…in the wallet.

    Congrats on being dropped from the suit. I hope you celebrated with a Double IPA.

    • I may have made it a Triple.

      You’re right in that this kind of thing is exceedingly rare, and I just happen to be one of the “lucky” ones. I certainly wouldn’t want to dissuade others from engaging in every type of volunteer work, but it is important to recognize the potential for risk in certain situations. I didn’t realize it until it happened to me.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • This is pretty exciting to run across as a board member and finance committee chair currently working on arranging a financing package for the not for profit I serve on. I’m also pretty familiar with creditors rights, bankruptcy, ect due to my day job.

    I would add two things to your “think twice about board service” comments:

    1) Always ask for financial statements before serving on a board of directors. Are the financial statements audited by an outside reputable firm (not a 3 person shop)? Is the organization solvent? Do they have debt? How much do they have in cash reserves? Organizations with no debt and cash carry less risk than organizations with debt and cash. As a rule of thumb, any not for profit should have six months worth of expenses in cash reserves.

    2) If they have debt, what is that debt secured by and what it its liquidation value? If there is minimal debt and its secured by marketable securities or useful (non-hospital) real estate, its probably okay. You should be concerned if Debt/Capitalization goes above 50% and run if it goes about 70%. This ratio is total debt divided by total assets.

    PS. I think you’re okay helping with your curling club with proper D&O insurance, but I understand the hesitation.

    • Great to hear from someone who has some expertise, Mr. Shirts.

      If I had done 1) and 2) I would have known to stay away. Frankly, I knew the place was not in great financial shape (although I didn’t realize how dire the situation was until I joined the Board), but I didn’t consider the fact that I might one day be considered liable.

      The combination of a liquor license in a building that’s mostly a big sheet of ice sounds like a setup for trouble. I enjoy the place, and you can usually find me there Tuesday evenings October to March, but I’m happy being just a league member and paying customer.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Wow – that is definitely a nightmare story. And I’ve feared the whole lawsuit thing with owning our rental properties. We had a tenant who found “mold” in a cluttered room they failed to heat/ventilate properly. It was some surface mildew that they caused but they started to threaten us with lawyers, etc. We’ve had four tenants since them in that unit without any issue – but we still think about it. We have an umbrella policy too – but I have no interest in dealing with a situation like you had. The stress is just not worth it. Thanks so much for sharing. (And by the way, we just accepted a purchase offer for the apartment complex and it should close in a month or so!) Fewer worries all around!

  • Wow, just wow. I’ve always wondered about the cartoon face over your mug in all of your photos, and this story explains a lot. The fact that you have been able to publish this blog during the ordeal and write such helpful posts, always finding some way to make others smile, says a lot about your character. I’m really happy for you to be beyond this and wish the same for your friends soon.

  • TheGipper

    I’m sorry you had to go through that.

    I truly believe that all civil suits for greater than $1000 should require a unanimous verdict, similar to criminal trials. This would stop the junk lawsuits in their tracks.

    You probably don’t have the appetite, but I wonder what your rights would be to countersue?

    On a separate note, where did you find such a great deal on umbrella insurance! 3M for less than $200!

    • The umbrella insurance story might get its own post. Short story is that the policy itself was over $200, but I receive multipolicy discounts on auto and property that we own, so the savings on those brought the overall additional cost to under $200.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • hatton1

    Wow what a story. I just accepted a board position for a small nonprofit exercise charity. I teaches Yoga and balance classes. D and O insurance was the first topic discussed. I have mentioned several times that I have been through several lawsuits. Obstetrics is also a plaintiff attorney magnet. The attorneys involved are not incentivized to quickly do anything. The longer things drag on the more fees they bill for. If you ever go to trial there is also no incentive for a speedy trial. The days end around 3PM and you get a long lunch. There is no concept of lets get this over with. I am glad it is over with for you. I know you are supposed to put this stuff into a mental box and not think about it but that is very hard to do. Psychologically did this experience lead you to want to quit medicine earlier? I think I became risk adverse after going to trial and the big risk was OB. Double IPA for you.

  • Ouch. Remind me never to signup to be on a board.

  • There are too many lessons here to be ignored. I often mentor and coach residents who take on their first role as attendings and rarely do they realize just how many landmines are in the industry.
    Lessons learned:
    1. Small rural hospitals have little to no financial oversight.
    2. If reasonable and rational people around you are abandoning ship take serious note.
    3. Administrators are excellent spinsters and are masters of making lies into half truths.
    4. Your family and financial life are way more important than your employers.
    5. Any appointment by the hospital into the C-suite means you are the representative of the hospital and the hospitals interests.
    6. Once a medical director, department chief or board member you become the owner of all the problems.
    7. We didn’t go to residency to learn to become administrators so it is better to avoid it all together.

    I really appreciate your candor and sharing this cautionary tale. I hope it reaches the ears of the unsuspecting and unprepared physician who inadvertently gets involved in these situations . Even if you don’t get sued there are many other intangible consequences that can hurt your clinical career and even your personal life. I can empathize and have been through a similar experience (sans lawsuit) and am glad you were able to pull away intact!

  • I remember you telling me about this last year and I was hoping for the best for you. I’m am glad that this is over and you can move on!

    I hope the rest of your friends get out of this with no negative implications…

    Cheers

  • Wow I always thought the medical profession was a safe job, and I was obviously aware of malpractice risks, but not risks to do with essentially administrative issues. That’s an ugly story.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Zac

    POF, I’m so sorry to hear about this! I can only imagine the stress and heartache this put on you and your family over all that time. As I’ve told you before, I’m extremely greatful for what you do as a physician and blogger and the fact that such litigation is as common as it is is a hard pill to swallow.

    When I left my previous employer I was hit with a demand letter that I would be sued for tortious interference and that almost cost me getting my current job. It was nowhere near as big of an ordeal as what you went through, but it still involved time, legal fees, and the threat of me losing out on my new job. Even as I prepared my taxes for 2017, I got a letter in the mail from my previous state just showing receipt of my old state tax refund and it brought back a wave of bad memories. Hope that’s the last of anything like that you ever see!

    • Thank you, Zac. Sorry to hear about your ordeal. We’re taught to practice defensive medicine, but nobody prepares us for the dozens of other ways in which we can be sued in relation to the non-clinical aspects of our medical careers.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • Man. That’s horrible. Glad you are free, but stinks you had to deal with all that stress.

  • Thank you so much for posting this! Experiences like these are imperative for all physicians to learn from.

    To be honest, at first I thought that this was a guest post. Then I realized it was you! I feel horrible for your experience – I am glad it is over.

    • With a sensational headline like that, I can see why you might think it came from someone else. Truthfully, I wish it had, but unfortunately, it’s my story to tell. I’m just glad I can tell it in hindsight now that it’s over for me.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • Holy moly — I did wonder why the secretive secrecy about your identity. Perhaps after the WCI conference in March you can have a grand unveiling of your name and face online. 🙂

    Congratulations on finally escaping the hamster wheel from hell.

    • Yes, this lawsuit has been a big part of my wish to remain anonymous. To be honest, when I started the site, the lawsuit was almost two years old, and I figured the end was just around the corner. I had no idea how many corners there would be.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • I constant waffle between…

    “I’m being overly paranoid,. There’s no way I could lose my life savings in a lawsuit. Any personal or professional lawsuit would be settled or covered by insurance.”

    …and…

    “Give me a $10M umbrella policy. No amount of salt is too much to de-ice my sidewalk. I must hedge on every single imaging study just in case it’s that rare deadly illness.”

    Stories like yours push me toward the latter attitude, but then I get lazy and nothing happens and I drift back to the former. I suppose I’ll probably remain lackadaisical about it until something really bad happens 😉

    • I hear you. Asset protection has never been my strong suit.

      Also, I’m far too trusting at times.

      That salt really does a number on the grass next to the sidewalk. Using sand for traction instead of salt for melting this year.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Wow. That is just brutal. Thanks for sharing what was obviously a traumatic experience. Your advice about umbrella insurance is good for everyone with a high profile position/profession. The mental/emotional toll that something like this takes is bad enough without the financial piece added in. I don’t know that I’d want to put myself “out there” in that type of environment, but I guess you only really find out when something like what happened to you occurs. It must turn off a lot of good people.

    I have been part of our hospital leadership for about a decade, but we have a much better environment in the legal aspect of things. I am covered by hospital insurance and our hospitals are all publicly funded. So, we don’t really face bankruptcy per se, but are often caught between high public expectations and shrinking governmental funding. That can be very unpleasant when you have to be “the complaints dept”. I do intensive care, so people don’t usually come to us unless something very bad is happening.

    On the plus side for being a medical leader, I have been able to help shape my workplace. Looking back at it – the care that we provide, our quality of work-life, and our incomes are all vastly improved. I love the direct patient care, but it is a different type of satisfaction to see a systemic change take root. It also moves at a very slow pace (relative to clinical practice) and has brought its share of stress along the way. It is definitely not for everyone and there wasn’t much competition for my job when I took it. I’d hate to see a system/environment that discourages what is largely needed volunteer work.

    • You’ve got a different set of challenges north of the border. I can understand how a lawsuit such as this one is more or less impossible. Does the single payer system also protect you better from frivolous malpractice claims? I haven’t been party to one of those, but know plenty of folks who have.

      Best,
      -PoF

      • Frivolous lawsuits are very rare here. Our malpractice insurance (CMPA) has a policy of not settling defensible cases to discourage fishing expeditions. Of course, the malpractice lawyers here hate it and howl about it in the papers every year or two decrying how we have the best lawyers who fight to defend bad doctors and won’t just settle expediently. They usually take the angle of it being subsidized by the government (most provinces have partial CMPA reimbursement as part of our negotiated compensation package). That subsidization also means that the government also has some “skin in the game” in terms of setting the laws around malpractice. The downside of that policy is that it could make it harder on complainants (probably some truth to that), but it also assures that there is money for legitimate cases to actually get paid out and that doctors can focus on practicing the best medicine rather than defensive medicine. Legend has it, that the founding of the CMPA was actually spearheaded by an orthopod who legitimately made a catastrophic mistake on a young patient, was found at fault, but the plaintiff never received full payment to help cover the costs of their long-term care etc because he simply did not have the money.

        I have seen frivolous complaints via our professional college since it is a low cost or free to complainants (it is paid for by our college membership fees). Many lawyers will suggest to people to float their case through our college first since it is free and will get the legwork of fact finding done for them. I haven’t personally had any college complaints yet, but we are all told to expect it at some point in our careers.

        I think we all do our best as docs, but we are all human, medical practice is a complex environment, and performance/outcome expectations are high. As a department chief, I vet complaints. It is the least favourite part of my job (no one likes to hear that they have done a poor job – whether it is real or perceived). However, it also probably cuts down on formal complaints significantly. There will always be a few people who will never be satisfied because they have unrealistic expectations, but most people just want to be heard. If you humbly listen, investigate, and if possible reduce the risk of recurrence, then they are usually satisfied. I have seen that even in cases where we clearly made mistakes. Removing the incentive of a big payday for bad outcomes may contribute to that, maybe it is cultural, or possibly it is communication and having a direct human interaction without lawyers involved.

  • Wow. I’m glad that nightmare is over. Lots of lessons here for us all. Joining a board sounds great, but the asymmetry of outcomes (helping them out a little + getting modest recognition versus getting sued for millions) is frightening.

  • Xrayvsn

    I am just saddened by those events you described. You are right, an MD behind your name is basically a bullseye target for unscrupulous lawyers (whom there seems to be no shortage of).

    I dealt with a civil lawsuit filed by my ex-wife (who was finally determined to have mental disorder by court order psychiatric evaluation years later). I won the case but it cost me $120k to defend. It was a jury trial that was just awful to go through and lasted a week (I’ve seen murder trials go for less time). In the end the jury took only 1 hr to deliberate and come back not guilty. Even though I won, I lost on all the money I had to spend on the legal prep, etc.

    We make it far too easy for people to sue. There needs to be a law that says if you sue unsuccessfully you are on the hook for the defendant’s legal fees. That would definitely curtail a lot of these lawsuits.

    In the article you keep making distinction of a non-profit organization. Is there any distinction/protection if it had been a for profit organization if you are on the board?

    Thanks again for all you do. Remarkable you did have the energy to create and maintain an incredibly helpful blog.

    • Ouch! I may have seen a version of your story before, but that really stings. Regular divorce proceedings can be quite costly, too, especially when a custody battle is involved.

      I’m not qualified to answer the non-profit versus for-profit Board question, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the risks are different.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • Wow, what a terrible story to read about, and I am sure it was 1000 times worse to live. The really sad thing to me about it is that our law system burned a really good person, and made them afraid to help in any potential leadership role that could help. That just bugs me. It is sad to me that a lot of people just resort to the thinking, “When in doubt, sue the rich guy,” when accidental/unexpected misfortune happens. I have had my own problems with the law in my past, and it seems like a never-ending nightmare at times. I am glad you are free to move past it now.

  • ArmyDoc

    PoF,
    Wow how awful! So thankful you are done with this. On a personal/selfish note, you have just added to the list of small benefits I consider about my decision to stay in the military ( after inflation adjusted pension, cheap health insurance after retirement, etc). Ability to be in leadership without this sort of threat wasn’t something I’d ever thought about before ….
    Anyway congratulations to you!

    • Like my Canadian friend who commented above, when you work in an entirely different system, and a government-run one at that, some of those risks are mitigated. Glad I have you another reason to be comfortable with your choice to continue with military medicine.

      Thank you for your service!
      -PoF

  • Drumroll: And, Milo’s real name is . . . .

    🙂

  • I felt very honored when I was offered a “Board of Directors” seat on a small, local music school, led by two very talented musicians who knew nothing about finances. We had occasional meetings, but it was basically “supervision at a distance.” Within a couple of years, the school went bankrupt, leaving a half a year’s rent unpaid as well as utility bills, etc. I had heard about “Board of Directors Insurance,” but didn’t have the sense to take it out. Luckily, the creditors just gave up and there were no lawsuits. Like you, I am very reluctant to accept any position of responsibility as a volunteer without adequate legal protection. Better to just stay home and practice the piano…

    • Sorry to hear about the school, but I’m glad to hear the creditors didn’t come after the Board. Maybe there weren’t enough people with MD behind their names to make it worthwhile.

      Perhaps I’ll pick up piano — that would be a much better use of my time that attending evening meetings.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Dang! I’m on the board of a non-profit that’s growing in visibility each year. I’ve been a volunteer for the past three years but in 2018 I’ll start getting a small stipend (very small). I was going to put that money into a Roth IRA but now I think I’ll use it to get some D&O insurance … just to be safe.

    • Better safe than sorry!

      But first, check with the non-profit. You may already be covered. And based on another comment, you should also inquire as to whether you’re technically on an advisory Board with no fiduciary duty, which would make your involvement less risky.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • jz

    OMG, so sorry for your nightmare. A few questions on what I don’t understand.
    Was this a critical access hospital? If so, why would it close with that support? If it was not critical access, why not?
    Who exactly are the trustees? Trustees are not creditors, so what’s in it for those people?

    • Thank you, jz.

      The hospital went from 39 beds to 25 to qualify for critical access, but that happened fairly late in the game. The move did not shore up the hospital’s finances.

      The trustee represents the creditors. I’ll borrow Vagabond MD’s response from a discussion on the WCI forum:

      “The reason there was a Trustee for the bankruptcy is that there were numerous parties that were stiffed by the Hospital. As such, it is the role of the Trustee to seek compensation for those parties.

      The way that Trustee can have access to all of the documents and personnel, and have a means to recover for these creditors, is to file a suit and subpoena those potentially responsible. The aggrieved parties have no way of knowing whether the money was lost due to poor business conditions, incompetence and mismanagement or scoundrels who embezzled and stole from the Hospital. This was not a personal attack on our dear PoF, though it undoubtedly felt like it at times, no doubt, but the legal system working to attempt to make the parties that really lost money whole. As they might say in The Godfather, “it’s not personal, it’s business.”

      Disclosure: Married to a lawyer”

  • Yikes I was a voting member of a hospital board! Thank goodness the two year statute of limitations is long gone by now, by more than a few years. I also chair a public college board but the State has immunity from lawsuits and a charity foundation board that I might could be sued over, I’m going to take a closer look at our directors insurance now! I thought my umbrella policy covered me there but after reading this and researching it I believe it does not.

    • Glad I prompted you to take a closer look!

      It would probably be worth a call to your insurer to see if it’s possible to include actions as a Board member under the umbrella insurance. And of course, to also review the D&O policty for the charitable foundation as well.

      The odds of a negative outcome are slim, but clearly they’re not zero.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • Hightower

    Thank you for sharing! What an awful experience. And this is precisely the sort of thing that is wrong with the medical profession today. Lawyers coming after all of your years of hard work for things that often have nothing to do with you.
    This is exactly the sort of thing that would finally force me to throw in the towel and walk away from the medical profession as well. I can not blame you one bit for feeling that way. But, great news you’ve been dismissed! I’m sure you’ll be sleeping more soundly from now on.
    And if I were you I wouldn’t reveal your identity in association with this blog until long after you’ve retired and you are no longer in danger of being sued for malpractice either. Not worth the risk of having lawyers snooping around on your blog trying to figure out how to rob you.

    • Interestingly, there was no way I could consider an early retirement until I was 100% sure I was dismissed and couldn’t be brought back into the suit.

      Some of my money is in our home and protected accounts like the 401(k) and Roth IRA, but with over half our our retirement assets in a taxable account, I could have lost a seven-figure sum if actually found liable. Of course, there would have been appeals, etc… but that would have dragged on for additional years and easily pushed the legal fees into the six-figure range. I’d better stop dwelling on what could have been and thank my lucky stars.

      I don’t yet have a compelling reason to put my name on the site, so I don’t plan to change the status quo for now. Plenty of bloggers (like Dr. Jim Dahle aka White Coat Investor) use their real names without hesitation, though.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Wow. I just let out a huge sigh of relief for you. So glad the nightmare is over.

    Thank you for telling your story, especially as a master storyteller like you. It helps those who are earlier in our medical careers. We don’t think about protecting our assets until we’re told why we must. This hits home.

    • Yes, the more assets you have, the more asset protection and risk mitigation matter. I was actually an early-career doc when I joined the Board in my sixth year out of practice. But that was six years ago, and our net worth has probably tripled in the meantime.

      And this mess only ended for me a few months ago.

      Best,
      -PoF

      • Larry

        I’ve been a board member and been sued, but since the nonprofit had good D&O insurance I was able to set it aside. I try not to let it dissuade me from taking leadership roles, but I do keep it in mind as a cautionary tale.

        One point I wanted to make after reading many of the comments: the D&O is “directors AND officers” for a reason. Not all C suite executives are actually considered officers of the corporation, but if you take one of these jobs definitely ask if you will be an officer (these positions are enumerated in the incorporation articles) and what the D&O coverage is for the officers. It is typically bought with the directors in mind, so don’t assume it will necessarily cover your situation. Your in house counsel should be able to explain it to you.

  • Yup…the joys of helping out. We are in a society always looking for blame and once named it can take years to get out from under the pain…

  • What a nightmare! I didn’t realize a Board could be held liable like this… I’m glad this has blown over for you!

  • Luis

    Man , you have been brave enough to keep your sanity during this ordeal . Physicians always have this dark cloud hanging over their heads. A few months into retirement and I say I don’t want this BS anymore. Everyone should know by now what political force is behind this scary system that also damage the patients .

    • You’re right, Luis. There are repercussions that extend beyond the physicians.

      All these things that lead to burnout and / or early retirement, including the threat of lawsuits, increasing administrative burdens, cumbersome electronic health records, and the MOC debacle negatively affect our patients, as well.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • Peter

    Very interesting story. Sorry it happened to you, legal matters terrify, it’s a big brutal soul eating machine.

    One quick question since you mentioned keeping your name off the blog to prevent targeting due to assets.

    You mentioned specifically it was dismissed without prejudice? So in theory, though unlikely, they could file against you again unless I’m mistaken?

    Just thought I’d mention it in case it affects your decision about sharing identifying info. Not to be a total downer, I just always tend towards caution with the legal system and try and avoid it as much as possible.

    • [comment edited]

      I am definitely free and clear of the lawsuit, and mistakenly said “without prejudice” when I was actually dismissed “with prejudice,” which is what you want. I originally had that backwards. The post has been edited to reflect the change.

      That being said, I don’t have a compelling enough reason to reveal myself just yet, at least not to the Google webcrawlers. I have met hundreds of readers and fellow bloggers in person, and will meet a few hundred more at Dr. Dahle’s White Coat Investor conference soon.

      Best,
      -PoF

      • Peter

        Okay as long as you are sure about it that’s good. I was just fairly confident in the reverse definition having unfortunately been involved in a civil filing myself. My understanding was that “without prejudice” met that they could file again, whereas, “with prejudice” meant that it had been found without merit and could not be pursued again.

        Again, didn’t want to be a buzzkill, just wanted to make sure you were fully informed as you move forward. It’s a great feeling to be out from under something like that. I know I was in serious risk of an ulcer when I was dealing with my situation.

        https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/without+prejudice

        As long as you are confident I’ll leave it at that. I just know in my case I settled and had to make certain in that instance it was dismissed with prejudice since the claim was settled. I’m thinking that may be what you are thinking of, since dismissed with prejudice usually infers settled.

        However, when a filer dismissed someone as without prejudice I was under the impression they could, but again most likely would not or why dismiss, file again as the claim wasn’t considered finalized legally. In fact in my instance they would use that tactic when they found good prospects, “high net worth individuals”, to separate them from the more generic filing and pursue them individually with the subsequent filing, or when people failed to settled to clear them from the current case and leave open the option to pursue them later.

        Regardless, you are most likely in the clear either way since they took the hooks out and aren’t likely to think you were refiling. However, as a sucessfull blogger with known assets the caution is always warranted.

        Hoping I’m mistaken and you are truly free and clear to live an unburdened existence online and off going forward.

      • Thank you for the clarification, Peter.

        I had the meanings of “with prejudice” and “without prejudice” swapped in my head, but the good news is that I was dismissed with prejudice (I just doublechecked). I knew that it was a permanent dismissal, but I used the wrong terminology in the post, which has now been corrected.

        As you say, caution is always warranted. I did have several people review this post prior to publication, including my attorney. I’m surprised no one, including me, noticed that detail. Good catch.

        I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with a recent lawsuit, also.

        Best,
        -PoF

  • First rule of litigation: don’t just sue who you think is at fault, sue who has the deepest pockets regardless of how tenuous their connection to the issue at hand. They’re the ones most able to pay. And if you sue a lot of them, you just might get one to bite.

    Sad that’s the state of the world we live in, but all the more reason to practice stealth wealth. Won’t stop a diligent investigator, but may provide some protection if they think you aren’t worth the effort.

    We had targets on our backs with prior careers so completely agree on umbrella coverage. Or as I like to call it “come at me, bro” insurance. Thankfully haven’t had to use it yet.

    • Yes, what you say is true, sadly enough. I’m happy to finally have that umbrella to deploy when the time comes. If I ever contemplate getting involved with a Board like I did before, I will be sure to inquire more about my coverage options, both from the non-profit and my umbrella insurer.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • Wow. Yes, litigation can provide much stress, loss of valuable time, and of course potentially serious financial ramifications. All this can seriously speed up the aging process for those involved.

    That’s why as was mentioned in the article, proper risk management with insurance and basic asset protection strategies such as asset titling techniques can help to minimize the risk. And it is unfortunate that the risk of something like this happening does force many individuals to refrain from volunteering for worthy causes.

  • Dmc

    Thanks for sharing. Very very glad the ordeal is over for you.

    Thanks also for all you work on this blog, it really has been a great blessing to me, and I have learned so much.

    Same applies for this post. Yet another angle on the lawsuit fear we seem to always live under in medicine.

  • Paul

    Sorry for your experience.

    One aspect of being a board member – is realizing what “type” of board you are serving on. Is it advisory only, does it have any fiduciary responsibility. Boards without fiduciary responsibility are exceedingly unlikely to get sued for monetary purposes (I am guessing on that point – but unless someone has other information – seems like it would be correct).

    Serving is two-fold. I respect the comments concerning burn out/etc. But I would also encourage folks to consider serving – you will often meet people within the community that you would have never met in the past. In my case. serving on / volunteering for these committees have led to a steady side job in one case, and ownership in a company that is on the Inc 500 list in another case. It has also helped me shape our hospital in some small fashion. (Not huge…but small…and that matters.)

    Unfortunately there are enough meritless lawsuits & lightning strike events to give anyone a plausible reason to not live life. I think you just need to think long and hard before you let a “one in a million” potential stop you from doing something you may enjoy or gain growth & experience from in the long run.
    Else you would sit at home in a bubble – afraid to drive (car accident = lawsuit), practice medicine (lawsuit waiting to happen), get married (divorce waiting to strip 50% of wealth) or invest in a start up company (lose money to embezzlement).

    Appreciate your candidness, as well as all the other great thoughts posted here.

    • Thank you for the kind words, Paul.

      I’ll bet you’re on to something with the advisory versus fiduciary role on a Board. I would certainly read the fine print when signing any documents as you join the Board (or review them now if you’re already involved).

      There certainly are some benefits to Board membership beyond the occasional sandwich. Networking, status, and perhaps unique opportunities you wouldn’t have discovered any other way. Personally, I’m very hesitant to get involved, having been through the wringer so recently. On the other hand, lightning rarely strikes twice in the same spot.

      I hope this post doesn’t drive people away from service in droves, but instead has them taking a careful look at the potential risks and taking steps to mitigate them.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • Don

    Read a great book a few years ago (The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else, author Hernando de Soto Polar).

    There was a footnoted reference in it that made me capture it with my phone.

    “Using economic data from fifty-two countries from 1960 to 1980, Samar K. Datta and Jefferey B. Nugent have shown that for every percentage point increase in the number of lawyers in the labor force (from, say, 0.5 to 1.5 percent), economic growth is reduced by 4-76 to 3.68 percent—thus showing that economic growth is inversely related to the prudence of lawyers.”

  • Thank you for sharing your story. This is so scary! Physicians are in a lot of danger for lawsuits. My husband is a surveyor and there’s a surprising amount of liability in the profession. Once he gets a license this coming year, I think we will get insurance to cover professional liability.

  • Physician on Fire:

    Thank you for sharing a terrible personal experience so that we can learn and avoid the same thing (or worse).

    I have posted a link to your article on the Bogleheads Forum where you are receiving many sympathetic replies:

    https://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=239924&p=3753395#p3753395

    Best wishes
    Taylor

    • Hatton1

      Wow! Taylor Larimore is reading your blog now. Double IPA for you

    • Thank you, Taylor. I appreciate the share on one of my favorite sites.The more people that are aware of the potential risks, the better.

      Anytime I read a Bogleheads thread with more than a few replies, I learn something new from someone who knows more about the topic than me, and often has personal experience.

      Thanks again!
      -PoF

  • Wow, that’s crazy. Thanks goodness it’s over with.
    Lawyers…

  • snowcanyon

    This is an insane and awful story, and I’m both saddened at the fact of your battle and happy that it’s resolved. I’m curious- how much did this experience factor into your decision to pursue FIRE? You picked the most secure of careers, and to have the rug pulled out from under by such a spurious lawsuit and traumatic departure must have contributed to initiating your FIRE journey.

    • If things hadn’t eventually gone my way, the lawsuit could have completely fouled up my FIRE plans. Now that this miserable mess is a memory, I’m a bit more eager to be done with medicine.

      I’ve also heard from a couple other physicians, who messaged me privately, about how disillusioned they became after being on the receiving end of a ridiculous lawsuit.

      I’d love to see some meaningful tort reform, but for every physician in power in Washington, there are a few dozen lawyers. So you know how that’s going to go.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • Felonious monk

    Lawyers are the parasites that grow on the fungus that grow on the bacteria that grow on dogcrap

    • Tell us how you really feel, Thelonius… er… Felonius.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

      p.s. FWIW, I did have an attorney defending me and two attorney friends that I was able to curbside for less than $300 (free, actually). Not all lawyers are cut from the same cloth.

  • What a nightmare POF. I’m glad it’s finally over for you. Psychologically, I don’t know how I could function under such a dark cloud.
    Many physicians serve as medical directors without knowing all the risks. I serve as a medical director and just got my malpractice insurance to add verbiage that covers me in that role.

    • That’s very proactive of you, MD MD. Most people, including me, never think about the risks until it’s too late.

      I was able to function because I knew deep down that the odds of actually being found personally liable for millions seemed extraordinarily small. But it still seemed real until the day I was sure my appeal could no longer be appealed.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • Oh my goodness, what a crazy story and nightmare. I am so glad this is all behind you now. To think I was whining about not being on MEC/medical board a few months ago.
    So many things we can learn from your experience, and to consider financial and legal liabilities before serving on non profits and for profit boards, medical related or otherwise. I am so sorry to hear of all the legal fees, time, stress you endured.

    • I think med staff positions are largely thankless, although it is true that someone’s gotta do it and if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.

      I know that some institutions pay physicians to attend certain meetings, which would make it much more tolerable. I spent hundreds of hours in meetings on my own time over about six years at two different hospitals and never received a dime. So, yeah… I’m done. Somebody else’s turn.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • NP

    Does anyone know if “director of quality” of your department carries any risk?

  • Wow – I am so shocked to hear this, I guess here in the UK we don’t realise how litigious the culture is in the US. Glad it’s all over, and it’s actually a lesson that I need to consider, as I am taking on some additional responsibilities in a voluntary role.

  • That is nuts. You don’t deserve any grief, no one on that board did. How insane! I would go ballistic and burn the world down if someone dragged me for 3 years on that unamusement park. I’ll show you crazy ✊💢

  • RadDocJB

    When I saw the title I was wondering if somehow POF was someone I knew… This story hit very close to home for me.

    I am a radiologist who spent my first decade in practice at a small hospital. I served in many capacities for the medical staff of the hospital, including on the MEC and two years as President of the Medical Staff. During the time as President, when I served as the medical staff member on the Board, the hospital went through its first round of bankruptcy proceedings to refinance excessive bond debt brought on building projects, which occurred long before my time. During that period I came to mistrust our own bankruptcy counsel and the consultants that were supposed to be on “our” side – not the bond holders. But the refinancing package drawn up by the legal consultants was passed, with a few of us dissenting. It just seemed like the bond holders were getting the better deal, but at least we were on more solid ground…

    Fast forward a few years and the hospital is back in financial trouble and I knew it from being on the Med Exec committee. I was asked to rejoin the Board as someone with experience. Not knowing any better – and like you wanting to help the only hospital I had known in my post-residency life – I said yes. Well, first meeting that year I find out that we are really in trouble. The Board has already rehired lawyers as we are streaming towards bankruptcy – and possible closure – for the second time.

    I will never forget sitting in on my first conference call with our lawyers that winter. We are discussing closing the hospital because things are so bad – there is a statute that hospitals need to notify the State HHS department if closure in 90 days is imminent. I flat out say ” then we need to do this”. The lawyers, who were are paying $900 an hour – say, “Nah, you will get out of this and I’m sure the bigger hospital down the road will bail you out… and you guys don’t need the bad press which will just accelerate the bankruptcy or closure” The rest of the room grumbles but goes along with the high paid counsel. We had also been in daily contact with the State via the Secretary of health

    60 days later we close the hospital – we were down to so little cash that payroll would not have been covered – and the media and unions and State officials all go ballistic. Not only that, we are located in a blue collar town where our current Attorney General grew up – and they are currently running for Governor. Talk about bad timing for us. Of course, the politicians knew exactly what was going on as our CEO met with them once a week, but they wouldn’t say that publicly

    We – as the volunteer board being given direction by lawyers and state officials – were suddenly the villians. Everyone got raked through the mud. There was such a union presence, which turned very ugly, that the CEO literally left town with a police escort and I never saw him again (and sadly he was a good person in a bad situation who cam in after the first bankruptcy).

    The AG, running for governor, opened a state sponsored investigation (even though the HHS officials knew everything) and we were all named in a lawsuit requiring a large retainer, even though we had good D&O insurance. Thankfully my money out of pocket was less that 5 figures, but the stress was crazy living in the town with everyone knowing we were on the Board. Thankfully, since the hospital had been struggling so long, everyone kind of knew what was going on and weren’t too surprised, but it was still terrible.

    The best thing that happened was that the AG did not become Governor and was also no longer AG. The new AG decided that it was silly to pursue and it was just faded away. But it was a real eyeopener.

    And kind of sad – since like POF, I might think – I now have lots of knowledge and experience, but in the current state of healthcare I am loath to get involved again.

    And the lawyers that were making $900 an hour and gave us the bad advice. Nothing. Untouchable. Said that we could have given the notice anyway…

    But thanks POF for sharing your story. You aren’t the only one, and I happy to see that yours is finally behind you as well.

    • I’m sorry for your troubles, JB, and it sounds like you lost more than I did. Or just as much, at a minimum.

      Granted, most people won’t find themselves in a situation as dire as you and I did, but once you’ve been through it, I can’t imagine putting myself in a position where it could happen again, however remote the chance.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • Ugh I’m so sorry this is how you learned about the exposure of sitting on a Board but am so relieved for you that you were finally dismissed.

    My older and much wiser friend shared their experience of being a Board Member when it went bad – half the Board refused to behave ethically in a difficult situation, that caused significant and demonstrable harm to an individual in their organization, and that person rightfully sued. My friend was named in the suit as a Board member, even though they argued vehemently for the Board to take the ethical course of action, and had to go through a similar roller coaster as you did to be dismissed.

  • HarjotSingh

    *Hugs*. I am glad the ordeal is over. You have helped others during such difficult times – mark of a leader.

  • Hey PoF.
    You story is awful, and I am glad your part in it is over.
    Like another commenter, not being a US-based doc offers me a slight disadvantage in understanding how truly litigious the US is. Nonetheless, I did want to pose a query, with all respect to the ordeal you’ve experienced.

    There was an article in HBR not that long ago that outlined the benefits that having physicians in leadership/executive roles brings to a hospital. My personal observation is that the ever-increasing number of non-clinical bureaucrats takes the places I’ve worked at further and further from how I would like to see things done.

    What you have described should give any doctor pause. But if the docs won’t help, will our health services be left to accountants? And where does that leave us? And our patients?

    Of course, I live and practice in the healthcare socialist utopia of Australia. But if docs won’t advocate for our patients and each other, where will we end up?

    Again, no disrespect to your experience meant. Just asking what you think the ramifications could be if episodes like yours lead to us docs bowing out of leadership altogether.

    Hope you enjoyed your IPA, it sounds like you deserved it! 🙂 And congrats that this is all over, at least for you.

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  • jz

    A question about umbrella insurance: My understanding is that umbrella insurance only extends coverage of one’s auto and home to a higher amount. I don’t believe umbrella covers professional liability.

    • The only way to know for sure is to look into the details of your policy, but I came to the same conclusion. My attorney did ask if I had a policy, and actually used the fact that I did not have umbrella coverage in one of several pleas to have me dismissed earlier (with the thought that the plaintiff’s attorney was most interested in an insurance settlement).

      From the post: “I don’t believe it would have helped protect me in this particular case, but the target on a wealthy individual’s back is ever-present, and umbrella insurance can protect from lawsuits related to your home or auto.”

      It’s an aspect of asset protection that I had ignored early in my career, and am happy to have now in case that black cloud starts raining down on me once again.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • Texancoqui

    So sorry this happened. It’s sad how they come after you so ferociously. It would definitely leave me jaded, too. I hope you will be able to move past this in a constructive and peaceful way now. Again, my condolences.

  • Mark C.

    If you had all your assets “protected” when you were sued, what would you have done differently? Told the attorneys to pound sand? Did the opposing side do an asset search on you prior to filing?

  • Vee Tee

    Wow, that is horrendous! Usually if your intentions are sincere you come out clean but it sounds as though you’ve been put through the wringer! I was once offered Chief of Service in my hospital I didn’t think I was old enough but they were short on docs. I thought it would have been cool to have on my CV and I always wanted a cool title like Chair or Chief. But family came first and we were planning on moving so there was no point being groomed if I knew I was leaving. Yours is a cautionary tale to physicians who are altruistic with nothing but the best intentions. This will make me pause if I ever have the privilege of a prominent role in the future. My old Chairman never had good stories about lawyers which is why I innately distrust them. They do their job defending their client nothing personal just business not realizing how it can ruin someone’s life then have lunch with the opposing attorney no big deal. My Chair would always tell me do your job well and be sure to document everything you do. This has always stuck even years after training. You did your job well and had nothing but good intentions. Unfortunately, there is evil in the world with lots of people and attorneys trying to make a quick buck regardless of how good the person is. It’s an unfortunate state of affairs we constantly guard against. No wonder you’re so secretive with your identity more than most docs with blogs. I am the same no pics of my kids on the internet. I delete all comments on websites with my real name after a few days. I do not think it’s prudent to leave your identity out and about even in a closed forum or site.
    You should write a book! I just saw this off chance on a FB physician site. Good info to learn from. Physicians by nature of the profession are good people but we must guard against situations like these. Thanks for sharing!

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  • Free at Last

    I am not a physician but until very recntly served as president of the board of our small rural homeowner’s association. Because we had a particularly messy set of covenants, very early in my tenure I sought to obtain legal counsel. By luck I came across a retainer arrangement with THE community association law firm in our state, one of the first 2 established in the country.

    Our retainer arrangement included a one hour meeting with our designated attorney. The first question out of our attorney’s mouth on our first meeting was “Do you have D&O insurance and who is it with?” Upon hearing the answer, he advised us to switch carriers immediately! That insurer, a very large national firm, was know in the legal community to have many loopholes in their policies. They advised us that rather than going through a general small town insurance agent, we should go through an agency that specialized in community association insurance. We did so and drastically revised our coverage, including the addition of an umbrella policy for the association.

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