Jury finds for defendant in Granite City retaliatory discharge case

Amelia Flood Nov. 22, 2009, 3:00am

A Madison County jury deliberated less than three hours before finding for Gateway Medical Center in a suit brought by its former head of case management.

While plaintiff's attorney Susan Andorfer said following the verdict that her side was disappointed, defense attorney Richard Behr said that his client had done nothing wrong in the first place.

Plaintiff Diane Hughes sued her former employer for what she claims was her forced resignation in September 2006. Hughes claims she was told to resign or be fired by her bosses after she refused to "coach" doctors at the hospital to admit nursing home patients for billing purposes after they were evacuated from their nursing home to Gateway following a power outage in July of that year.

Hughes claimed she was pressured to help secure the admissions so the hospital could bill Medicaid and Medicare along with insurance companies.

Gateway argued that Hughes' performance had been substandard and pointed to several documents written by Hughes over the course of 2006 indicating she was looking for another job and wanted to leave her Gateway position.

Closing arguments in the case were heard late Thursday. The jury deliberated for an hour Thursday night before returning with the verdict before 10 a.m. Friday.

"Of course we're disappointed," Andorfer said after the verdict. "We wish the verdict had been different."

Behr thanked the jury in comments he made after the verdict and said they had made the right decision.

"We knew we had done nothing wrong in the entire time we handled the case," Behr said, "and we proved that at trial."

Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder presided over the case's trial. The trial began Monday.

The case is Madison case number 07-L-185.

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