Former Physician's Assistant Awarded Record $168 Million In Lawsuit

physicians assistant lawsuitA California physician's assistant and her attorney are claiming victory after a federal jury awarded the woman $168 million as compensation for the hostile work environment that she says she endured at a Sacramento hospital.

As The Sacramento Bee reports, Ani Chopourian alleges that she was also repeatedly sexually harassed during the two years she worked at Mercy General Hospital as a cardiac surgeon's assistant, a position that ended in 2008 with her dismissal on grounds of alleged misconduct.

Chopourian told the newspaper that she lost count of the number of complaints that she filed with human resources, but said there were at least 18. She also detailed incidents that included a surgeon greeting her each morning with, "I'm horny," and slapping her rear.

"I was slapped on the backside and grabbed repeatedly, sometimes in front of supervisors. When I said, 'Do something,' they would laugh," Chopourian told Sacramento TV station KXTV.

Chopourian eventually documented the abuse and mailed the complaint to HR. A week later, she was fired.

During the trial which ended Wednesday, hospital managers alleged that it was Chopourian who was guilty of professional misconduct, which was why they fired her and sought to deny her unemployment benefits.

The jury, however, sided with Chopourian, awarding the 45-year-old Los Angeles native $168 million in damages. The Los Angeles Times reports that the amount is believed to be the largest judgment for a single victim of workplace harassment in U.S. history.

"They were just shocked by the whole workplace environment," Lawrance Bohm, Chopourian's attorney, told the Times. During the three-week trial, witness after witness depicted a culture of vulgarity and arrogance that they said humiliated female employees and put patients at risk.

Mercy General is one of 40 hospitals in California, Nevada and Arizona operated by Catholic Healthcare West -- now Dignity Health -- employing some 7,000 people.

Chopourian told the Times that tasteless behavior wasn't unique to Mercy General's operating rooms or another Catholic Healthcare West facility where she occasionally worked.

"But the environment at Mercy General, the sexually inappropriate conduct and the patient care issues being ignored, the bullying and intimidation and retaliation -- I have never seen an environment so hostile and pervasive," said Chopourian, a graduate of Yale University's medical school.

In a statement provided to the media, Mercy General President Denny Powell said the hospital would appeal the court's decision. "We do not believe that the facts support this verdict or judgment," it said. "We stand by the actions we took in ending our relationship with this former employee."

Powell's statement said the hospital was committed to providing and has policies ensuring a safe work environment that excludes sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior. "Any complaint is thoroughly investigated and prompt action is taken," it added.

Jurors, however, didn't see it that way, Bohm told the Bee, telling him after the verdict that they were "appalled by Dignity's lack of managerial response and accountability, and by the obvious hostility and sexual environment in the cardiovascular surgery department."

Bohm called the jury verdict "total vindication" of the accusations made against Chopourian by Mercy General management.

Still, he acknowledged that the $168 million award, which includes $125 million in punitive damages and $42.7 million for lost wages and mental anguish, could be reduced on appeal or in settlement to end further litigation.

But, Bohm told the Times, he was confident the jury's judgment against the hospital chain would survive appellate review.

Next: Hotel To Pay Out $1.3 Million For Taking Waiters' Tips

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Don Sigley

1I sure wish girls at work would sexually harass me! Hell thats a sweet gig already! If I were her I'd take 10 million, call it a day and head back to work tomorrow in a new Maybach sedan!

March 11 2012 at 8:38 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Don Sigley's comment

If you are working with females they are more likely WOMEN not 'girls'.

March 20 2012 at 12:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

the story says, "witness after witness depicted a culture of vulgarity and arrogance that they said humiliated female employees and put patients at risk"...when will these employers ever learn??
the verdict will be appealed, and the hospital will eventually come to an agreement on a settlement with her, and of course it will be one of those confidential agreements, and the hospital will admit to no wrongdoing, and the beat goes on.

March 11 2012 at 10:46 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Those people who think this judgement is a win for women are wrong. What's going to happen is the next time these surgeons or hospitals want to hire someone, they will avoid hiring a woman because of fear of this situation, getting sued.

March 07 2012 at 1:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Mark's comment

Right but they WON'T fear showing a pattern of NOT hiring qualified females and being sued for gender bias? What nonsense.

March 12 2012 at 12:37 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

So further discriminating against females is your solution? How about they change the hostile working environment instead.

March 20 2012 at 12:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It is difficult to understand how the Human Resources Dept. was not aware of the law regarding sexual harrassment since for more than a decade the law has been enforced. Legally if Human Resources receives a complaint of dicrimination it is legally required that they investigate the complaint & protect the employee. It is obvious that a "class action" should be in the works. I congratulate the lawyer & client in this conspicuous victory.

March 04 2012 at 4:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So the message here is that an awarded amount means nothing. I'm sure we will soon see the day that someone is awarded $1 trillion dollars but walks away with $100,000.
And for all of you saying that she deserves that amount, next time you pay for medical ins remember that you're the one paying her and her attorney so stop bitching about your premiums.

March 04 2012 at 3:34 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bryan's comment

ignorant argument. Next time a plumber screws up a gas service and blows up a house the homeowners shouldn't sue either because it will drive up the cost of plumbers.

March 12 2012 at 12:39 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to eric.lastname's comment
Stephen Melton

Plumbers should stick to staying out of the HVAC trade anyway...sue the bastard..LOL

March 20 2012 at 11:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down

Okay... no one deserves to get treated that way "IF" that is truly what was going on!!

But to recieve a judgement of $168 Million is even more ridiculous!! There is absolutely NO WAY she should have ever been awarded such an amount!! It just shows how idiotic these jurys are that award such stupid amounts!!

March 04 2012 at 3:33 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to richman99's comment

Apparently there was enough evidence to show it was an established pattern that wasn't corrected. At least this got somones attention.

March 20 2012 at 12:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I hope she gets every cent of that award. Maybe it will get the attention of those slob doctors!

March 04 2012 at 3:27 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to TKB's comment
Trisha Lynn Dragon

Good. Hope it sticks. Normally not pleased with ridiculous sums awarded in court, but these tool bags went above and beyond to be incompetent and useless. Am sick and tired of worthless moron's getting away with whatever they want because they have the designation "Dr". Have grown to despise the medical community.

The more we hold accountable the better chance we have of forcing the garbage out.

March 04 2012 at 3:09 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Trisha Lynn Dragon's comment

I doubt she will get anywhere near that amount, but it should get the attention of employers everywhere that their employees are not there to be abused for any reason

March 17 2012 at 8:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

And, it should be reported that federal law has a $300,000 plus attorney fees cap on such suits.

March 04 2012 at 2:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to bjwtex's comment

And???? You just don't get it do you? It is obvious that she will not get close to that amount but it also sends a message to the big headed self important doctors and hospitals, in this case, that this crap has got to stop.

March 04 2012 at 3:08 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

I disagree.

March 20 2012 at 12:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pat hill

ding bat juries.

March 04 2012 at 2:46 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to pat hill's comment

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