As expected, Freeman Neosho officials, in their response to the lawsuit filed in April by former employee Charis Seaton, denied the claims the woman made in her petition.
In their response, filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, hospital officials acknowledged that Ms. Seaton worked at Freeman Neosho, she no longer works there, and not much of anything else.
Hospital officials "made good faith efforts to comply with applicable law and cannot be held vicariously liable for punitive damages" for the conduct of any of their managers, according to the response.
Freeman is asking that Ms. Seaton's lawsuit be dismissed.
Ms. Seaton claims she was wrongfully fired by Freeman and is suing for $10 million in actual and punitive damages. She claims that Freeman Neosho Chief Operating Officer Janice Walker violated criminal law by obtaining and disclosing patients' health information.
The patients to whom Ms. Seaton is referring allegedly "were having sex with the Freeman Hospital physician who was under investigation for allegedly abusing drugs," according to the lawsuit.The petition also says Ms. Walker used Ms. Seaton's private medical records for her own gain.Ms. Seaton said she was fired after she brought Ms. Walker's activities to the attention of Alisha Asquith, human resources employee relations manager, and Deborah Chiodo, human resources director. She also told the hospital officials at that time that she had filed a complaint alleging a violation of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).
Initially, the lawsuit indicates, Ms. Seaton was told she would be transferred to Freeman West in Joplin, but then she was called into a meeting with CEO Phillip Willcoxon, Ms. Walker and Ms. Asquith, and was fired. "She was not given a reason," the lawsuit said. "(She) was escorted off the hospital grounds by hospital security. Alisha Asquith pushed against her as (Ms. Seaton) tried to open her desk drawer to remove her money from her desk, telling her to stop taking her possessions because all property was Freeman's except (Ms. Seaton's) purse. (She) was not even allowed to take her State of Missouri Notary seal, stamp, and log."
At that point, she was handed a termination letter, saying the firing was because of "irreparable loss of trust and confidence." Ms. Seaton went before a Fair Treatment Hearing in September 2004 and was told by Joseph Yust, who is described in the lawsuit as third in command at Freeman Neosho and was told she might be rehired if she dismissed her HIPAA claim against the hospital and any other claims she had.When Ms. Seaton refused, she was told her firing would stand, according to the lawsuit.