SOUTHERN HEALTH CORPORATION OF HOUSTON, D/B/A TRACE REGIONAL HOSPITAL AND DR. VICTOR HORN, APPELLANTS
CAROL CRAUSBY, APPELLEE
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 04/21/2014.
COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: CHICKASAW COUNTY CIRCUIT
COURT, HON. JOHN ANDREW GREGORY, TRIAL JUDGE.
FOR APPELLANTS: JOHN P. FOX; LUTHER C. FISHER IV, ELIZABETH FOX AUSBERN.
FOR APPELLEE: RONALD W. LEWIS.
BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., ROBERTS AND FAIR, JJ. LEE, C.J., GRIFFIS, P.J., BARNES, ISHEE, ROBERTS, CARLTON AND MAXWELL, JJ., CONCUR. JAMES, J., CONCURS IN PART WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION. IRVING, P.J., DISSENTS WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION.
[¶1] Carol Crausby worked as an emergency room nurse at Trace Regional Hospital in Houston, Mississippi -- until Dr. Victor Horn demanded that she be fired, and the hospital agreed. A jury awarded Crausby $80,000 from the hospital on her claim that its administrators had conspired with Dr. Horn to tortiously interfere with her employment relationship . . . with the hospital. Although we find a challenge to the legal theory waived, we reverse and render the award because acquiescing to Dr. Horn's demands did not amount to a conspiracy to tortiously interfere with Crausby's employment.
[¶2] In early 2001, Crausby was the managing supervisor of the emergency room at Trace Regional Hospital in Houston, Mississippi. She had held that position for a few years. Crausby was a " working" nurse manager who both supervised the emergency room and tended to patients. She seems to have been regarded as highly competent but occasionally abrasive with some of her coworkers, especially when she felt someone was imposing on her or her department. Dr. Horn was the chief of staff -- not an employee of the hospital, but a liaison with the hospital administration chosen by the physicians who practiced at the hospital. At the time Dr. Horn had been a physician in Houston for about twenty years.
[¶3] Dr. Horn was only occasionally present in the emergency room, but he alleged a series of incidents with Crausby that led him to demand that she be fired. Dr. Horn claimed that, about a year prior, he had heard Crausby say " Abby has left the building" after a patient died. He alleged that on another occasion, Crausby had refused to contact another doctor to get dosage history for a patient. At trial, Dr. Horn alleged (for the first time, Crausby argued) that she had vocally objected to administering an antibiotic to a different patient, in the patient's presence. Various other incidents were noted that were not connected with Dr. Horn -- Crausby's reluctance to be on call; her delays in preparing for a certification; comments from another employee regarding difficulty dealing with her; a dispute with another physician (Dr. Horn's brother) over the temperature in the emergency room.
[¶4] After Dr. Horn brought his complaint to the hospital administrators, they arranged a meeting between Crausby, Dr. Horn, the ...