On November 23, 2015, a jury in Alameda County awarded $3,050,000 to Trish Metzner, who was represented by Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP. The case, which was tried by Darci Burrell, Katherine Smith and Leslie Levy, was brought against The Permanente Medical Group/Kaiser Foundation Hospitals. The case, which is captioned Metzner v. The TMPG, was filed in Alameda Superior Court in 2013 (Civil Action No. RG 13702356).
The plaintiff, Trish Metzner, is a licensed RN, who had been employed by TPMG for almost 20 years at the time of her termination. From 2010 until 2013, when she was terminated, she served as the Director of two of medical units within TPMG. She had year after year of excellent performance evaluations before 2010, and in 2011, she received a review for the 2010 performance year that rated her as having “Excellent” or “Exceptional” performance in every category. Approximately two months after Ms. Metzner received this excellent review, she notified her supervisor that she was meeting with a surgeon to discuss a significant back surgery. Given her supervisor’s background as an OR nurse, the supervisor was aware that the surgery in question would require Ms. Metzner be on medical leave for a significant amount of time (she ended up being out for four months). Within a short period of time thereafter (perhaps as little as a few days), Ms. Metzner’s supervisor recommended to her supervisor that our client be put on a performance improvement plan. Although Ms. Metzner was not placed on a PIP at that time, she was placed on a PIP and given a negative performance evaluation when she returned from leave, followed by termination. There was very little documentation of actual performance deficiencies or of meetings with our client to discuss performance deficiencies until after she requested medical leave.
The case, which was tried before the Honorable Stephen Kaus, lasted almost six weeks. The jury deliberated over five days (about three and a half days of actual hours spent) and went over every email that TPMG had introduced as supposed evidence of Ms. Metzner’s poor performance. As the presiding juror told the trial attorneys, while there were some emails in early 2010 evidencing concern with Ms. Metzner’s performance (before the excellent 2010 evaluation), it was “radio silent” after that. The jury found in favor of Ms. Metzner, and awarded her $3,000,000 in economic damages, and $50,000 on account of the emotional distress that she suffered due to the termination. Levy Vinick will also be entitled to an award of attorneys’ fees on account of their victory.