Hospital appeals Bibb County jury’s verdict, case returns to Georgia Court of Appeals


Beau Cabell | The Telegraph

An ambulance is pictured outside the Medical Center, Navicent Health, (then The Medical Center of Central Georgia) in this 2009 file photo. Federal law requires all Medicare-participating hospitals with emergency departments to medically screen and stabilize any patient in need of emergency care.

A Macon hospital is appealing a Bibb County jury’s verdict ordering it to pay millions in damages to a doctor after the jury found it had acted in bad faith and committed fraud.

Last month, Navicent Health was ordered to pay Dr. Fady Wanna more than $5 million after Wanna’s attorneys successfully argued the hospital forced him out of the job by acting in bad faith and intentionally misleading him with false information about his employment.

Wanna is a former cardiothoracic surgeon executive for Navicent Health and its physician’s group subsidiary, Health Services of Central Georgia Inc. He accused the hospital of reducing his pay, refusing to pay his benefits and changing a policy that prohibited him from operating at Coliseum Health, Navicent’s main competitor.

The three-week trial ended April 12. The jury awarded Wanna $607,000 in damages, $1.5 million in attorneys fees plus $2.82 million in punitive damages.

“While we thank the jurors for their time and consideration of this case, we respectfully disagree with their verdict and have filed a notice of appeal,” Amy Leigh McCord, spokesperson for the hospital, said in an email to The Macon Newsroom.

The lawsuit began in 2017 and is one of the most lengthy civil cases in recent Bibb County history. The appeal means the case will come before the Georgia Court of Appeals for a second time.

Navicent has spent nearly $3 million fighting the lawsuit. Hospital lawyers told the jury in closing arguments last month that a large award to Wanna could devastate the hospital and cause it to eliminate some programs it offers as a community benefit. The lawyers argued that the hospital should not be punished because it has since hired new leadership and has a new corporate identity.

“You will be punishing a community asset,” Robert Brennan, a lawyer for the hospital, told jurors. “Every dollar awarded against Navicent will be felt on their bottom line.”

Reached by phone recently, one of the jurors, Brooke Conner, said those statements were not well received by the jury.

“I think we all took offense to that,” Conner said, adding she took it personally because the hospital saved her relative’s life and employs some of her friends.

Navicent Health is represented by Parker, Hudson, Rainer & Dobbs. Wanna is represented by Smith Gambrell Russell and Martin Snow.

Lawyers for Wanna say he “sincerely hopes the Macon Bibb County community is aware of the facts found by the Jury in this case.  He believes the appellate courts will uphold the Jury’s verdicts rendered after 3 ½ weeks’ of dedicated service.”

To contact Civic Journalism Fellow Laura Corley, call 478-744-4334 or email [email protected].