State high court hears Cape Girardeau Co. case

Friday, February 1, 2013

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The Missouri Supreme Court heard arguments in a Cape Girardeau County case on Thursday, a lawsuit filed by a local nurse after she was fired, she said, for speaking out against unwanted sexual advances from a doctor she worked with and a hospital administration that retaliated against her for two years.

The civil case, Madonna Farrow v. Saint Francis Medical Center and Dr. Cedric C. Strange, was the second on the court's agenda, both wrongful termination suits. Farrow was represented in oral arguments by St. Louis lawyer Charles S. Kramer. Another St. Louis lawyer, Thomas O. McCarthy, represented the hospital and Strange.

Farrow is a registered nurse who worked at the hospital from 1991 to 2008. She did her job without incident, the brief says, until December 2005. That's when she reported incidents of sexual harassment against Strange, a radiologist at the hospital. She also said she reported incidents of alleged retaliations for reporting the harassment to the human resources department for two years.

The hospital, the court filings show, ultimately fired Farrow in December 2008, saying she failed to meet customer service expectations. She filed a grievance through the internal review process for review of her discharge, which ultimately was denied, she said.

She filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, the latter of which notified of her right to sue.

Farrow lost at the trial courts level and in the Missouri Court of Appeals. The hospital and Strange filed motions each time to dismiss, or in the alternative, summary judgment. The trial court granted summary judgment, basically a finding that the termination was legal.

Farrow's lawyer argued on Thursday that the courts erred in granting the medical center's summary judgment and that her claims were made properly.

But the lower courts found no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the hospital is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because Missouri is a no-fault state, meaning that employers can fire workers without cause.

After the hourlong argument, Beth Riggert, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Supreme Court, said there is no way to tell when the state will hand down a decision.

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