12 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY october 26-November 1, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com After losing a wrongful termination case in May to a former Community Hospital for the Monterey Peninsula supervisor, with an award at that time of nearly $10 million, an official for CHOMP and parent company Montage Health says they are weighing whether to file for a new trial. It’s a gamble, since a new jury could rule against the nonprofit company and award even higher damages. On the other hand, Montage faces the potential of employees suing in the future and citing the jury’s decision, says the attorney who represented the former supervisor. Montage and CHOMP “are considering all options,” says CHOMP Vice President Kevin Causey, including appealing recent rulings by Monterey County Superior Court Judge Vanessa Vallarta, in which she denied their motions for setting aside the jury’s award, as well as for a new trial for CHOMP. She did rule Montage could file for a new trial but only on the question of whether former supervisor Jared Stiver was an employee of CHOMP and Montage, or just CHOMP. “We believe that there were errors made in the trial that will be addressed on appeal, including the fact that Montage Health never employed Mr. Stiver and could not have been liable for any of the alleged conduct,” Causey says. “We will continue to vigorously pursue all avenues available to overturn what they consider to be an erroneous jury verdict.” Stiver was fired in November 2021 and immediately filed a lawsuit against both CHOMP and parent nonprofit company Montage—the two share the same executive management team— claiming that he was retaliated against for reporting “improprieties” in patient care and issues with billing practices, among other allegations. CHOMP and Montage representatives denied all of Stiver’s claims. Executives testified in the trial that Stiver would have been fired anyway for being a “bully” and “toxic.” “However,” Vallarta said in a ruling on Oct. 16, “the jury and the Court were not persuaded.” The jury’s initial award of $9.95 million was reduced by Vallarta in July to $9.475 million, with CHOMP required to pay $475,000 for emotional distress and Montage responsible for $4 million in lost wages plus $5 million in punitive damages. In making their determination for punitive damages, jurors voted 12-0 that Montage and its officers engaged in conduct against Stiver “with malice, oppression or fraud.” After the jury trial, Vallarta ruled separately that the defendants violated a California health and safety code that prohibits hospitals and health care facilities from retaliating against any health care worker for complaining about unsafe patient care, whether they’re an employee or not. According to Stiver’s attorney Mark O’Connor, the $9.475 million award stands because of Vallarta’s decision that they violated health code, even if Montage were to win a new trial. Vallarta set a date of Nov. 28 for a case management conference to set a date for a retrial, should Montage and CHOMP choose to go forward. Decision Point Montage Health weighs its options after losing a $9.475 million verdict in an employment case. By Pam Marino An attorney for parent company Montage Health argued in court it has no employees, thus can’t be held liable for conduct alleged by a former CHOMP employee. NEWS “The jury and the Court were not persuaded.” DANIEL DREIFUSS SHIP Grant Statement This project was supported, in part by grant number 90SAPG0094-04, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy. It’s tIme to thInk about your medIcare coverage! For questions, please contact the Health Insurance Counseling & Advocacy Program (HICAP) at 800-434-0222 Learn more at a Free Seminar alliance on aging (salinas) – thurs. october 26th at 3pm (Spanish) soledad city hall – Wed. november 1st at 1pm (English) and 2pm (Spanish) Meals on Wheels Monterey Peninsula (Pacific Grove) – Wed. november 8th at 12:00pm (English) oldemeyer center (seaside) – mon. november 13th at 10am (English) www.allianceonaging.org Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program - ‘HICAP’ medicare costs, medicare advantage (Part c) and the Prescription drug plans (Part d) change each year… Learn more about options to re-evaluate your coverage at one of our Free medicare update presentations! Showroom DiSplayS for Sale 70% OFF! Cabinets • Appliances • Hardware Accessories • Decorative Plumbing Visit our showroom Monday-Friday 10am-4pm 1368 S. Main St C, Salinas www.cabinetsandsuch.com P.S. We are NOT going out of business! Inquiries: please email info@cabinetsandsuch.com or call (831) 422-9900