Failure to send certification of medical leave to patient's employer

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Case in Point

February 21, 2012

Failure to send certification of medical leave to patient's employer 

Suit alleged that a psychiatrist failed to ensure that a note was sent to the patient’s employer certifying that he needed to take medical leave. After a jury verdict, the parties settled for $1 million. Forsythe v. Zachariah.

Robert Forsythe, 44, had a history of bipolar disorder. When he experienced a bout of depression, he contacted his employer’s human resources department and requested medical leave. Forsythe was told to have his treating psychiatrist send a certifying note to human resources confirming the medical leave. Forsythe requested the note from psychiatrist Susan Zachariah and then took medical leave from his job.

The next month, Forsythe’s employer terminated him for taking unauthorized leave. He had been a shipping company supervisor earning about $75,000 annually plus benefits. He was unemployed for more than 18 months before taking a job as a warehouse supervisor earning about $10 per hour.

Forsythe sued Zachariah, alleging professional negligence for her failure to ensure the note was sent to Forsythe’s employer. The plaintiff charged that Zachariah asked a secretary to fax the note and then failed to ensure that it was resent after the fax failed to transmit. The plaintiff also sued a physician and her practice group who leased office space to Zachariah, alleging vicarious liability.

The plaintiff settled with the physician and practice group pretrial for an undisclosed amount.

The jury awarded about $1.2 million against Zachariah, finding her 88 percent liable and Forsythe 12 percent at fault.

The parties then settled for $1 million.

Citation: Forsythe v. Zachariah, No. 30-2010-00403233-CU-NP-CJC (Cal., Orange Co. Super. Nov. 10, 2011).

Plaintiff counsel: Steven L. Krongold, Irvine, California.

Plaintiff experts: Catherine Graves, economics, Fullerton, California; Amy Koellner, vocational rehabilitation, Long Beach, California; and Andrew Whyman, psychiatry, San Francisco.

Defense expert: Lester Zackler, psychiatry, Sherman Oaks, California.

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