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Court Orders Surgeon to Pay $40,000 for Kicking Nurse

He says it was done playfully. She says he has a history of hostile behavior.

Published: August 6, 2014

A surgeon with an alleged history of bad behavior must pay a nurse $40,000 in damages after kicking her and leaving a bruise, a Kentucky court recently ruled.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals upheld a previous decision that ordered cardiothoracic surgeon Robert T. Fried, MD, to compensate Diane Powell, RN, a nurse at King's Daughters Medical Center (KDMC) in Ashland, Ky., after she sued him for assault and battery.

In October 2008, Ms. Powell assisted Dr. Fried during a case performed at KDMC. Ms. Powell alleges that she was speaking to a co-worker after the procedure when Dr. Fried kicked her in the leg. Dr. Fried denies intentionally hurting Ms. Powell and maintains the kick was done in a "playful" manner.

Ms. Powell told the court that this wasn't the first time Dr. Fried was aggressive towards her. She said he had previously kicked her in surgery, hit her hand with steel surgical instruments, clamped her arm with an instrument and threatened to throw an instrument at her head.

She also sued KDMC for negligent hiring and supervision, intentionally inflicting emotional distress by retaining Dr. Fried's medical privileges and liability for the doctor's actions. The court ruled that Ms. Powell's claims against KDMC did not show the hospital had any intent to cause her injury — required under the Kentucky Workers' Compensation Act — and said in its decision that her claims "involve, at most, negligence by KDMC."

Dr. Fried must pay $5,000 in compensatory damages and $35,000 for punitive damages. He appealed the trial court's original decision, claiming the amount awarded to Ms. Powell was excessive and that his previous actions should not have been presented as evidence.

When reached for comment, Dr. Fried's attorney says the matter is not over, but did not indicate what legal action his client is planning.

Ms. Powell's attorney says the court's opinion speaks for itself and offered no further comment. Lawyers representing KDMC did not immediately return requests for comment.

Kendal Gapinski

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