A jury on Monday awarded financial damages of more than $100,000 to neurosurgeon Eustaquio Abay, who sued the practice he had founded in the 1980s.
Abay’s suit in district court against Abay Neuroscience Center claimed more than $1.3 million in damages. He did not return calls for comment. In his lawsuit, Abay claimed he was owed more than $1 million in lost guaranteed compensation from the practice. He also claimed that he was owed $200,000 in damages for the center allegedly interfering with his patient relationships after he established a new practice.
The jury found that ANC “intentionally and maliciously interfered” with Abay’s new practice and awarded Abay $101,390.58 in actual damages. Jurors left it up to a judge to determine additional punitive damages against the center.
The court will hold a separate hearing to determine the amount of punitive damages Abay will receive from ANC, said Jay Fowler, Abay’s attorney with Foulston Siefkin. No date has been set.
Fowler told the jury in closing arguments on Friday that the case was not only about Abay’s rights, but of patients’ rights to choose a physician, which were denied when the center did not tell Abay’s patients and referring physicians how he could be contacted.
“Referrals are the lifeblood of a neurosurgical practice,” Fowler told the jury.
During the civil trial, ANC denied allegations of interfering with Abay’s patient relationships.
The center was founded as a solo practice in 1986 and was named in honor of Abay’s parents in 1996. He left the practice in May 2011 and started a new one.
For the contract portion of the suit, the jury found that both sides breached contracts.
The jury awarded $59,380 to Abay for guaranteed compensation and $30,810.17 to ANC for a 2005 service agreement, according to records provided by the court.
Abay claimed that under a service agreement with the center for guaranteed compensation, he was owed $425,000 per year.
Defense attorney Jeff Spahn, with Martin Pringle Law Firm, argued that Abay voluntarily reduced his compensation while still employed by the center in order to repay debt owed to the practice.
“Now he’s changed his mind, four years later … a position he never took with his partners,” Spahn said during closing arguments.
The defense claimed Abay was not guaranteed the compensation, that he was seeing significantly fewer patients than other doctors, and that he spent significant time away from the office doing charitable work and other activities, therefore not fulfilling his duties at the office.
“I’m not going to deny Dr. Abay was skilled as a surgeon and brought value to ANC, but all physicians there did,” Spahn said.
Spahn argued that other contracts Abay had with the center required that he pay his expenses at the center and an equal share of the center’s overhead.
When Abay didn’t bring in as much revenue through patients, he stopped making as much money, Spahn said.
Judge Douglas Roth presided over the trial.