A well-known Mankato doctor has a filed a lawsuit against the clinic where he spent most of his career as an orthopedic surgeon.
The dispute between Dr. Wynn Kearney Jr. and The Orthopaedic and Fracture Clinic has been in negotiations for about four years, according to a complaint filed in Blue Earth County District Court two weeks ago. Except for the two years when Kearney was serving as a Navy doctor during the Vietnam War, Kearney has been worked as a doctor and surgeon at the clinic since 1972.
Kearney had been a clinic shareholder, along with its other 13 doctors, since the late 1970s. The shareholders also serve as the clinic’s board of directors.
In 2009, Kearney’s attorneys served the clinic’s administrators with a legal complaint he said he would take to court if it wasn’t resolved. It’s that complaint that was filed earlier this month, but Kearney also recently filed a motion to amend the complaint that claims there has been additional “wrongful conduct” by clinic employees and more evidence has been gathered since the original complaint was written.
Kearney’s lawsuit claims the clinic changed its rules for senior surgeons after he asked to have his hours reduced and to be taken off of on-call duties. It claims previous doctors were allowed to reduce their workloads and stop being on call between the ages of 55 and 60 while maintaining benefits.
The lawsuit also claims the clinic’s 14 shareholders equally divided profits from the business’ ancillary services, including its surgical center, sports and rehab centers, back care facility and its imaging department. In 2008 each share was about $415,000 from out of the total of about $5.8 million in profits, Kearney’s complaint said.
The policies were changed by the board of directors in 2002, but Kearney and two other doctors were grandfathered in for the work reduction rules. In 2008, the policy was changed to allow only three years of work reduction. At that point the shareholder would have the option of retiring, returning to full service, or to quit and apply to work as a contract physician at the facility. That change also reduced the percentage of profits for those doctors.
The clinic has responded by denying Kearney’s allegations and filing a counterclaim that says Kearney told the board of directors he was close to retirement at the time of the 2002 vote. It also says the vote barely passed with help from Kearney’s brother, Dr. Michael Kearney, who also is a surgeon at the clinic.
Both Kearney and the Orthopaedic and Fracture Clinic have new attorneys since the original complaint was written.
“There has been a lot of discovery since we got involved,” said Jim Gilbert, Kearney’s current attorney. “There’s also a pending discrimination case that has been going slow. We’ve been waiting for almost a year to take action.”
Kearney and Gilbert, said the stalled Minnesota Department of Human Rights age and disability complaint isn’t the only reason the case has been delayed. There is a disagreement about what clinic shares are worth and both sides also have repeatedly attempted to settle the matter out of court.
“Obviously we’re disappointed he decided to take this action,” said Andrew Meyers, Orthopaedic and Fracture Clinic chief executive officer and chief operations officer. “This is purely a business matter. It has no impact on the quality of care that we have here at the OFC. Obviously we don’t think there’s a basis for his claims.”
The case has been assigned to District Court Judge Bradley Walker, but he had not officially accepted it as of Tuesday morning. A judge will have to approve Kearney’s motion to amend the complaint, Gilbert said.
The Kearney family is well known for its commercial land holdings and philanthropy, including Wynn Kearney’s previous donations to send Bridge’s Elementary students to Washington, D.C.