Doctor Wins $5.7M from Employer for Strip-Search

Two hands pulling on surgical gloves

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A doctor who claimed his employer set him up to get arrested on trumped up gun charges and strip-searched in retaliation for complaining about hospital management has won a $5.7 million jury verdict.

Dr. Michael Fitzgibbons, an infectious disease specialist, was former chief of staff at WestMed Medical Center in southern California. He and other hospital staff complained about management of the hospital by its corporate owner, Integrated Healthcare Holdings Inc.

One day in the hospital parking lot, Fitzgibbons was handcuffed and arrested after police found a gun and black gloves in his car. He was taken to jail and strip searched.

Fitzgibbons sued Integrated Healthcare Holdings and his attorney, Charles “Ted” Matthews, argued the company’s CEO, Bruce Mogel, set up the arrest and planted the gun in the doctor’s car to keep him quiet about complaints against management.

The jury agreed, awarding him $5.2 million after a two week trial, and then coming back to hear another day of trial and ordering the hospital to pay an additional $500,000 in punitive damages.

Atorney Charles "Ted" Matthews headshot

Atorney Charles "Ted" Matthews

“I’m grateful and humbled by the verdict,” Fitzgibbons said after the trial. “The jury found that IHH committed these acts, these outrageous acts.”

He handed out thank-you notes to each of the jurors as they left the courtroom.

After the six-year legal battle, Fitzgibbons will return to his old job at WestMed as a doctor, a situation that he said he feels nervous about.

“I’m afraid. I’m concerned. The management that engineered this conspiracy, some of them are still there. I have the greatest respect for the nurses, the physician staff. My only concern was to protect them.”

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