Hagen v. Siouxland Obstetrics & Gynecology, PC, No. 14-2580 (8th Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
Siouxland, a group practice of obstetrician-gynecologists, terminated Hagen, its President and an equity owner, invoking the for-cause termination provision in Hagen’s 1993, Employment Agreement, after an incident during which Hagen yelled at Dr. Eastman (another Siouxland doctor) and hospital staff, accusing them of neglecting a patient, resulting in a stillbirth. Hagen also reported the incident to hospital administration and told the Siouxland partners that he was considering reporting to the Iowa state medical board. Hagen advised the patient to sue for malpractice. Hagen filed suit, alleging wrongful retaliatory discharge in violation of Iowa public policy. The other doctors testified about Hagen’s history of workplace conflicts and outbursts and about concern that his suspension by the hospital would hurt the reputation of the practice. A jury awarded Hagen $1,051,814 in compensatory damages. The Eighth Circuit reversed, holding that Hagen failed to prove he was an at-will employee who may assert a tort claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. The exclusive remedy of a medical professional practicing under Hagen’s Employment Agreement would be a breach of contract claim, which would permit inquiry into the professional conduct the district court found separately protected by the tort of wrongful termination in violation of public policy.