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Radiologist Sues Over Firing While On Vacation

September 19, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Medical Ethics, Practice Management
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Hope you’re enjoying your vacation. Don’t come back to work. We fired you because you’re “cognitively disabled.”

That, says radiologist Lawrence Cohen, MD, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, is essentially the greeting he received in the summer of 2010. So he’s suing his former business partners and employers for $160 million, alleging that the episode ruined his reputation and destroyed his career.

According to the Washington Business Journal (subscription required), the lawsuit says Washington Imaging Associates-Maryland LLC fired Dr. Cohen on the grounds that he had developed a cognitive disability. Dr. Cohen denies that he has any such thing.

The lawsuit says his former employer and Progressive MRI LLC, a chain of imaging centers to which Washington Imaging Associates-Maryland provides imaging services, told referring doctors and potential clients—and even a new employer of Dr. Cohen’s—of his nonexistent disability.

Jim Gillece of Baltimore, Dr. Cohen’s attorney, said:

Dr. Cohen is an outstanding radiologist. He’s well-respected in his community and was looking to practicing at least another 10 to 15 years, and he was thrown out of his practice, where he was one of the founders.

Dr. Cohen worked with Washington Imaging Associates-Maryland from its founding in 1995 until he left in early 2010 to undergo hip surgery, the suit says. After the surgery, he returned to his position as physician in charge of the Chevy Chase location of Progressive MRI (doing business as Progressive Radiology), according to the suit.

During that summer of 2010, shortly before Dr. Cohen was to return from vacation, the suit says, Mark L. Monteferrante, MD, of Washington Imaging, told Dr. Cohen to stay home. Dr. Monteferrante and others said they thought Dr. Cohen was cognitively disabled and told him to file an insurance claim saying that he was permanently disabled, the suit says.

Defendants in the suit, besides Washington Imaging Associates-Maryland, are Progressive MRI; Dr. Monteferrante; Howard A. Sachs, MD; and Diagnostic Health Corporation of Birmingham, Alabama, which holds a management contract with some imaging centers run by Progressive MRI.

Specifically, the suit alleges violation of the disability discrimination code of Montgomery County, Maryland; invasion of privacy; and tortious interference with economic relations.

The last charge stems from Dr. Cohen’s attempt to get a new job with Virtual Radiologic Corporation, a teleradiology company. The suit says Virtual Radiologic offered Dr. Cohen a contract, then rescinded the offer after asking Dr. Monteferrante for a reference.

The lawsuit was filed August 25 in Montgomery County Circuit Court. The defendants have not yet formally responded to the suit (or informally responded when the Washington Business Journal tried to contact them for comment).

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