Orthopedic surgeon sues Sanford Health, alleges defamation and interference with patients

Alan Condon -  

Matthew Friederichs, MD, has sued Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Sanford Health, claiming the health system defamed the surgeon and unlawfully interfered with his practice after he handed in his resignation.

The lawsuit stems from a 2003 employment agreement between Dr. Friederichs and MeritCare Medical Group Fargo (N.D.) that said either party could "terminate the agreement, without cause, on 90 days written notice," according to court documents filed Jan. 18.

MeritCare merged with Sanford in 2009 and became a party in this employment agreement, the complaint alleges. In November, Dr. Friederichs used a written notice to inform Sanford that he was terminating their employment agreement on Feb. 28.

After receiving the letter, Sanford allegedly told the surgeon that his last day would be Feb. 25 and that he would not be permitted to see new patients "six weeks before his last day." The complaint alleges that Sanford then reversed its decision days later and told Dr. Friederichs that he would not be able to see new patients, effective immediately, and that he would not be able to perform surgery on existing patients after Feb. 10 instead of his last day, Feb. 25.

Dr. Friederichs also alleged that Sanford sent letters with "misrepresentations and false endorsements" to his patients that purported to be from the surgeon, leading to an "unusually high number of patients" cancelling or failing to attend their appointments, according to court documents. The surgeon claims that these actions caused him to "lose compensation and further caused damage to his reputation with patients."

The defendant is accused of tortious interference, invasion of privacy, defamation and breach of contract, among other charges. Dr. Friederichs is requesting a jury trial.

Sanford Health did not immediately respond to Becker's request for comment.

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