Alliance for Patient Safety

                            All that is necessary for the triumph of evil...
                                                                ... is for good men to do nothing.

                                                                                                   Edmund Burke

Retaliation Against Physicians - Michael Fitzgibbons, MD

UPDATE: August 2015 - $5.7 Million Award to Dr. Fitzgibbons Upheld. The California Supreme Court properly rejected an attempt to overturn the award which was reinstated by the California Court of Appeals. Click here to read more.

Dr Fitzgibbons is a well known figure as the California Medical Association, CMA and the American Medical Association, AMA, filed jointly an amicus brief in his support, when he was sued by his hospital for frivolous reasons in a coercive action taken by the hospital administration to enforce the "Code of Silence", denying him his right to free speech protected under the First amendment of the Constitution and threatened him personally, as the hospital used mafia type tactics going as far as attempt on his life, and his family's life, see:

Attempt to injure and intimidate Michael Fitzgibbons, M.D.,

Following his personal experience, Dr Fitzgibbons was called upon to assist numerous physicians facing similar predicaments and represents them pro bono in their administrative proceedings at their hospitals.

As a consequence, Michael Fitzgibbons MD became a well known whistleblower and a foremost expert in peer review.

  • He was Chief of Staff of the Western Medical Center, Santa Ana, CA, from 2002 to 2004.

  • Member of the board of the Orange County Medical Association.

  • Delegate to the CMA House of Delegates, HOD.

  • Clinical instructor at the University of California Irvine, in internal medicine, from 1982 until 2011.

Fitzgibbons v. IHHI

(Anti-SLAPP—Freedom of Speech)

Issue: This issue in this case relates to a physician’s right to free speech in connection with commentary about the quality of care in a particular care setting. In this case, Integrated Healthcare Holdings, Inc. (“IHHI”), the owner of four hospitals sold by Tenet in Orange County, sued Dr. Michael F. Fitzgibbons for defamation based allegedly on an email he sent to several people. The email allegedly expressed concerns about the financial health of IHHI and its possible effects on patient care. IHHI alleges it was damaged by the email, though the complaint filed by IHHI was very vague as to what those damages were.

Dr. Fitzgibbons filed a motion in Superior Court where the case was filed to have the suit thrown out as a “SLAPP” suit. A SLAPP suit is one that is strategic in purpose, not actually designed to compensate a plaintiff for unlawfully-caused damages. Instead, it is intended to intimidate a critic so that the critic will stop publicly initiating and/or encouraging debate on an issue of importance to the public which involves the plaintiff. SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.”

The Superior Court ruled against Dr. Fitzgibbons and refused to dismiss the suit. Dr. Fitzgibbons exercised his right to an expedited appeal. On April 24, 2006, CMA filed an AC brief in support of Dr. Fitzgibbons. CMA’s brief argues that there is a fundamental public interest in encouraging physicians to voice their opinion on policies and practices that affect the health of their patients. CMA also emphasized that a proper interpretation of the anti-SLAPP law is crucial to CMA’s members because in today’s complex environment, physicians act not only as healers, but as advocates, information providers and citizens who speak out on issues relating to health care. In fact, depending on the area, a physician’s speech in the public arena may be mandated by law or ethics.

Outcome: In June, 2006 the Court of Appeal of the State of California, 4th Appellate District. Ruled in favor of Dr. Fitzgibbons and the arguments made by CMA and AMA in our AC brief. The court ruled that the physician’s e-mail message expressing concern for IHHI’s financial health falls squarely with the right of free speech on a public issue or a matter of public interest.