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Doctor wins lawsuit against Los Banos hospital

A former obstetrician has been awarded $1.8 million in compensatory damages in his suit against Memorial Hospital Los Banos and Dr. Jason Mevi.

Dr. John Brannigan, 57, who practiced at the hospital from 2002 to 2004, claimed that the hospital retaliated against him after he complained to the state about unsafe practices in the labor and delivery area.

"We have been completely vindicated," said Jeffrey Rager, Brannigan's lawyer. "He was trying to improve a hospital that was in dire need of improvement."

Rager said that Brannigan had gone to the California Department of Health Services, the licensing agency that gives hospitals their license to practice, after the doctor had tried to get the hospital to correct the problems in 2003 and 2004. When the hospital refused, Brannigan took his complaints to the state. After an investigation of the hospital's labor and delivery area, the state agreed with Brannigan and asked the hospital to correct the problem, which they did.

Brannigan said that after the state visited the hospital, staff at Memorial, including chief of staff Mevi, retaliated against him."They said he had disruptive behavior and poor clinical performance," Rager said, adding that there were no complaints against Brannigan until after he went to the state.

The jury trial, which lasted two weeks under Judge Hugh Flanagan in a Merced superior court, found that the hospital had indeed retaliated against Brannigan, causing him to eventually lose his license.

Rager said that after the hospital complained about Brannigan, the doctor tried to get a job in a Maine hospital, but Memorial gave him a bad review. The hospital also made complaints to the state about Brannigan, which are still being investigated.

"That bad reference has continued to follow him through his career," said Rager. Brannigan, 57, now lives in Oakdale and is not working as a physician. Brannigan is trying to get his license back, Rager said.

Memorial Hospital's marketing coordinator, Diane Hambley, said that the hospital respects the time and effort that the jury has put into the case, and doesn’t want to interfere with the jury’s deliberations at this time.

The jury will reconvene next week to address whether or not punitive damages should be awarded to Brannigan. The $1.8 million was compensatory for Brannigan's lost wages.

Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or creiter@mercedsun-star.com

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