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Former resident physician drops case against Iowa hospital

By Nicole Freeman

- Former resident physician Dr. Julie C. Howard has dismissed her lawsuit against Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa, according to the Globe Gazette. Howard had filed the suit, accusing Mercy of breach of contract, in June of 2011 in Cerro Gordo County District Court. She also filed charges with the Iowa Board of Medicine in June 2010.

Howard was a resident physician at Mercy from July 2007 until July 22, 2009, when she was fired for allegedly accessing records for a patient who was not in her care, a HIPAA violations. Mercy claims she accessed the information on June 6, 7, and 10 of 2009, but Howard has denied any wrongdoing.

As a result of violating Mercy’s patient privacy policy, Howard was fined $2,500 and publicly reprimanded. In court documents, Howard stated that she was given no grievances, no opportunity to challenge the hospital’s claims, and no chance to be reinstated.

Howard sought lost wages, claiming she and her husband had lost jobs offers due to her dismissal, as well as damages for the cost of moving and enrolling another residency program, attorney’s fees, and emotional stress.

It is unclear why Howard dismissed her case or how much money she was seeking from the hospital. She dismissed her case with prejudice, leaving her unable to file the same charges against Mercy in the future, a positive outcome for the hospital. To win her case, Howard would have to prove that her dismissal was the cause of lost job offers. It’s possible she decided pursuing the case wasn’t worth the litigation costs.

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