A longtime nurse fired from the University of Toledo Medical Center almost a year ago after a kidney intended for transplant was accidentally discarded has sued the hospital for wrongful discharge, defamation, slander, and libel.
The complaint by Melanie Lemay of East Toledo — employed for nearly 30 years at UTMC, the former Medical College of Ohio — was filed Friday in the Ohio Court of Claims in Columbus. Her husband, Patrick Lemay also is listed as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, which seeks damages exceeding $25,000.
As a result of publicity surrounding the incident, the lawsuit alleges that Mrs. Lemay suffered “defamation, slander, and libel ... [and] damage to her reputation and been exposed to public shame and disgrace affecting her daily life.”
“She’s been really defamed throughout the world,” Vesper C. Williams II, the Lemays’ attorney, said Saturday. “Her firing went all over. It was based on information provided by the hospital.”
Tobin Klinger, a UT spokesman, said it “would be inappropriate to comment on pending litigation.”
Mrs. Lemay was working alongside Judith K. Moore when the incident took place Aug. 10, 2012. Ms. Moore, a part-time employee, discarded the contents of a machine that included the kidney. She resigned. Mrs. Lemay was fired.
UTMC temporarily halted its transplant program afterward.
Last week, Sarah A. Fudacz, who was supposed to receive the kidney, and her brother, Paul Fudacz, Jr., the donor, and their parents and siblings filed an unrelated lawsuit against the hospital in the Court of Claims.
In their lawsuit, the Lemays said UTMC implemented new policies for responsibility of transfers in operating rooms six days after the incident, yet on Sept. 12 fired her in part for violating procedures that did not exist on Aug. 10.
State officials denied her initial claims for unemployment benefits, but in February — after two telephone hearings with witnesses — the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission ruled that Mrs. Lemay “was discharged by the defendant without just cause in connection with work,” according to the lawsuit.
The complaint also charges that UTMC did not follow the rules of progressive discipline proscribed in its labor contract with American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 2415, Mrs. Lemay’s union.
Her firing, the complaint said, was motivated by UTMC’s “need to deflect its responsibility for the inadequate policies that were in place on Aug. 10, 2012, and to uphold the public image of its kidney transplant program.”
Mrs. Lemay has spent much of her time since then looking for work, “but once they Google her name she does not get a call back for an interview,” the lawsuit said.
Asked whether Mrs. Lemay seeks her job back, Mr. Williams said, “It’d be nice. Something. Because she was only six months from the ability to retire. By getting fired, she lost the ability to get the next six months in and lost her health insurance after 30 days, and she was the primary breadwinner.”
Afterward, she suffered depression and other difficulties “associated with being wrongfully discharged,” Mr. Williams said. With no insurance, she had to pay for treatment herself.
“It’s quite a kick, and they tried to blame everything on her,” Mr. Williams said.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6182.