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Eriksson v. Deer River Healthcare Ctr., Inc.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

April 18, 2014

Dr. Peter A. Eriksson, Plaintiff,
v.
Deer River Healthcare Center, Inc., Defendant

Page 920

Kelly A. Jeanetta, Kelly A. Jeanetta Law Firm, LLC, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for Plaintiff.

Joseph J. Mihalek, Fryberger Buchanan Smith & Frederick, PA, Duluth, Minnesota, for Defendant.

OPINION

RICHARD H. KYLE, United States District Judge.

Page 921

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Dr. Peter Eriksson previously worked for Defendant Deer River Healthcare Center, Inc. (" DRHC" ) as a family-practice physician. He commenced this action in March 2013, alleging that DRHC terminated his employment in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (" FMLA" ), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. Presently before the Court is DRHC's Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Motion.

BACKGROUND

The pertinent facts are undisputed. At all relevant times, DRHC operated a hospital in Deer River, Minnesota, and a clinic (known as the Meridian Clinic) in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, approximately 15 miles away. (Stampohar Dep. at 9, 11.) Pursuant to an employment agreement dated March 27, 2008, DRHC hired Dr. Eriksson as a family-practice physician working " a minimum of two (2) days per week, each of which . . . shall consist of at least ten (10) hours . . . provid[ing] medical services to . . . patients" at the Meridian Clinic. (Eriksson Dep. Ex. 1.) The agreement further specified that Dr. Eriksson was an at-will employee whose employment could be terminated for any reason with 90 days' notice. (Id.)

In 2011, Dr. Eriksson began to fall behind on his patient charting, which DRHC mandated to be completed within 14 days. (Eriksson Dep. at 73 & Ex. 19.) The Meridian Clinic's manager, Nancy Buescher, met with him several times over the ensuing 18 months to discuss the problem. (Id. at 76.) Buescher advised that delayed charting could render DRHC unable to bill for his services, and in fact it had written off thousands of dollars in treatments Dr. Eriksson provided to patients due to his dilatoriness. (Id. at 78, 114-15 & Ex. 16.) Similar concerns were expressed by employees of DRHC's hospital, who also complained about untimely charting for patients Dr. Eriksson had treated in the emergency room (ER). (Id. at 69-71.)

Besides untimely documentation, DRHC harbored other concerns with Dr. Eriksson's performance. For example, he frequently opted to work more lucrative shifts in the hospital ER rather than seeing patients at the Meridian Clinic, finding

Page 922

others to cover his clinic shifts (including after-hours urgent care). (Id. at 89-90, 101-04.) This caused difficulties for clinic staff, as they were not always aware whether Dr. Eriksson (or some other provider) was seeing patients; he often informed staff about the changes only at the last minute. (Id. at 101-02 & Exs. 10, 20, 29.) These communication and scheduling concerns were discussed at an April 2012 meeting between Dr. Eriksson, Buescher, and Jeff Stampohar, DRHC's CEO. (Id. Ex. 10.) Further, the number of patients who listed Dr. Eriksson as their primary-care provider -- his so-called " patient panel" -- was essentially flat over the course of his employment. (Stampohar Dep. at 81-82, 115 & Ex. 39; Buescher Dep. at 28, 68-69; Stampohar Aff. ¶ 10.) Other healthcare providers at the Meridian Clinic were able to grow their practices during Dr. Eriksson's tenure, but he did not. (Stampohar Dep. Ex. 39; Stampohar Aff. ¶ ¶ 7, 9.)[1] Buescher attributed this failure to a lack of engagement, including his desire to work in the ER and opting out of urgent care (where new patients are often found), as well as his communication difficulties, which included some patient complaints about his bedside manner and ...


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