Donna & Goliath

Published in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review December 4, 2008.

Like most big bullies, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center doesn’t know when it’s time to quit. Last month lawyers representing UPMC and former Magee-Womens Hospital secretary Donna Kovacs appeared to have reached a verbal settlement that resolved Ms. Kovacs’ 2004 lawsuit against Magee and parent UPMC. She claimed she was fired for exposing record-keeping problems that compromised patient safety. But on Monday, UPMC was before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Gene Strassburger pushing for provisions to be tacked on to the settlement that, if allowed, would forever punish Kovacs for he whistleblowing.

What UPMC asked for – and which Kovacs’ lawyer (Vicki Kuftic-Horne) strenuously objected to – falls somewhere between disgraceful and outrageous.

The provisions would block or limit Kovacs from testifying in two other pending whistleblower suits against UPMC. They would prevent her from ever suing UPMC again even if she slipped and fell on its property.

And they would not only bar Kovacs from seeking employment at any UPMC facility, they would allow her to be fired if her future employer were taken over by UPMC. Perhaps UPMC would like Kovacs fitted for an electronic ankle bracelet to monitor her whereabouts? Or how about carving a scarlet “W” in her forehead?

We trust Judge Strassburger will have no trouble spotting the bad guy in this fight between Donna and Goliath.