The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

March 12, 2014

Man seeks damages from medical facilities

By Samantha Pidde Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — A Clinton man is seeking damages from local health facilities and individuals for allegedly preventing him from doing his job.

In early February, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist Anthony B. Schwendinger filed a civil lawsuit against Mercy Medical Center, Medical Associates, Gateway Surgery Center, Morrison Community Hospital, Mark Leding, Stephen Jewell and James Babeshoff. The petition charges these defendants with civil conspiracy to harm the plaintiff, tortious interference with a contract, tortious interference with a prospective business advantage, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and blacklisting. Schwendinger is requesting a jury trial to award compensatory damages, treble damages and other relief the court may deem just.

“As a result of defendants’ collective conduct, Schwendinger suffered, and continues to suffer, substantial damages for which defendants are liable,” stated the petition filed by Schwendinger and his attorneys.

Last week, attorneys for some of the defendants responded to the lawsuit with a motion to dismiss. This motion claims that Schwendinger’s lawsuit offers “insufficient facts for the court to reasonably infer an argument or understanding to accomplish unlawful means was reached between the defendants.” The lawyer for Medical Associates and Gateway Surgery Center argues that the lawsuit does not allege either of the facilities forced Pain Consultants to terminate its employment with Schwendinger, only request he not be assigned to them.

The motion to dismiss also said the plaintiff’s claim for defamation is legally insufficient. This motion continues that the plaintiff’s petition fails to offer specific defamatory statements in detail.

Schwendinger had served as a CRNA for Pain Consultants since February 2005, providing anesthesia services for the facilities named in the lawsuit, as well as other centers. The lawsuit alleges that Leding, Jewell and Babeshoff conspired together to get rid of Schwendinger, who the petition classifies as being loyal to Pain Consultants owner and president Dr. John Dooley. The lawsuit states that Schwendinger worked efficiently and without incident and never was a part of a malpractice claim or any disciplinary proceeding.

The petition filed by the plaintiff claims that after Leding was hired by PC in June 2008, he began harassing and defaming Schwendinger, eventually enlisting Jewell and Babeshoff in this alleged plan.

The lawsuit continues that in April 2009, Leding told the other two defendants that Schwendinger was hiding pornographic magazines in a shared apartment the PC anesthesia group used in Clinton. The petition also stated that during that same month, Babeshoff posted a picture of a grotesque fish in the operating room at Mercy with the phrase “Big T” above it, referencing Schwendinger. The plaintiff maintains that Mercy staff and administrators were aware of the harassment and did nothing to handle it.

In February 2012, Leding allegedly began making false statements about Schwendinger, accusing him of “having lost his edge,” being “too slow to act” and “unable to take care of children,” according to the lawsuit. On Feb. 17, 2012, Dooley notified the plaintiff that his access to Mercy had been locked, pending the results of the informal investigation. The petition also claims that during this investigation, Leding, Jewell and Babeshoff made false statements that Schwendinger was an alcoholic, smelled like alcohol at work and fell asleep at work.

According to the lawsuit, Dooley was informed by Mercy Medical Center CEO Sean Williams that Schwendinger was precluded from seeing patients from Mercy. The lawsuit continues that after the trouble at Mercy, representatives from the other facilities listed in the suit also banned Dooley from sending Schwendinger to their facilities. The petition further alleges these issues prevented the plaintiff from finding different employment.