Ex-Marshall professor settles remaining claims in wrongful termination suit

By John O'Brien | Aug 13, 2013

HUNTINGTON – A former obstetrics and gynecology professor at Marshall University has settled the rest of her lawsuit that alleged she was discriminated against and wrongfully terminated.

U.S. District Judge Thomas E. Johnson, of the Southern District of West Virginia, signed a dismissal order Aug. 5 that recognized a settlement in Shailini Singh’s lawsuit against four Marshall employees, including the then-dean of the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

Singh filed her lawsuit on Oct. 5, 2011, 15 months after she was fired. Last year, Johnston dismissed four of her claims.

The defendants were Robert C. Nerhood, former chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology; David G. Chaffin, an employee of the medical school who was appointed by Nerhood to be director of the Department of Maternal Fetal Medicine; David Judge, who replaced Nerhood as chairman in August 2010; and former medical school dean Charles H. McKown.

Singh was a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Maternal Fetal Medicine at Marshall’s medical school and was also employed in a clinical capacity as a physician. While at Marshall, she established an accredited perinatal center at Cabell Huntington Hospital, she says.

Singh says she was also engaged in medical research and that the data belonged to her.

On June 26, 2010, she was told by Nerhood that her employment by University Physicians and Surgeons was terminated and that she was to abandon her patients at Cabell Huntington Hospital, the complaint says.

At the time, Singh, an Indian immigrant, was 65 years old. She says she was the only board-certified physician in her field and that Chaffin, a white male raised in the United States, lacked her qualifications and was incompetent.

Chaffin’s bio says he is a board-certified OBGYN specializing in maternal-fetal medicine.

The complaint says Nerhood and Chaffin agreed to reorganize the department so that Singh and Chaffin would share responsibility for providing care and treatment to every patient rather than each be responsible for their own individual patients.

“Plaintiff believed that this proposed reorganization could be detrimental to the health, welfare and safety of patients so, in a constructive manner, she made suggestions and comments regarding the planned reorganization…” the complaint says.

Chaffin wanted Singh to be his subordinate because of her age, sex and nationality, Singh alleges.

Singh was fired after making her suggestions. She was represented by Huntington attorney William D. Levine.

On Sept. 26, Johnston granted part of the defendants’ motion to dismiss. He dismissed four counts of her complaint, which were retaliation, wrongful termination, outrageous conduct and conversion of intellectual property.

That count stemmed from Nerhood’s alleged denial of research data access to Singh.

Johnston’s ruling said Singh was seeking more than $1 million. The four counts were dismissed because Singh did not exhaust administrative remedies with the West Virginia Public Employees Grievance Procedure.

Singh now works at the University of Buffalo Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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