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Local doctor is named as defendant in civil lawsuit

By M.K. Luther - mkluther@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- A Front Royal doctor has been named as a defendant in a civil suit brought by a former resident physician.

Dr. Claudine Nigro is suing Dr. Francis X. Dennehy of Front Royal for breach of contract, defamation and emotional distress, according to papers filed Aug. 3 in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg.

The Appalachian Osteopathic Postgraduate Training Institute, Warren Memorial Hospital, Valley Health System and Virginia Commonwealth University Medical College of Virginia also are named as defendants in the suit.

The suit claims that all defendants unlawfully refused to allow Nigro to progress to the residency program's second year.

Nigro originally enrolled in the three-year residency program in March 2008 for the term of a one-year period lasting from July 1, 2008, until June 30, 2009, the document states.

The lawsuit claims that in December, Nigro reported in a survey conducted by a residency program accrediting agency that she was being asked by the physicians to work hours exceeding set limits. Nigro contends that she was subjected to a series of retaliatory actions as a result of the disclosure, including harassment and defamation, that culminated with her resignation from the program.

In February, Dennehy began admonishing Nigro's work performance and required her to be evaluated for depression, according to the documents. Nigro complied with the request, and a psychiatric evaluation showed Nigro was not suffering from any mental condition. The results of the evaluation were sent to Dennehy on March 24.

Nigro was informed on March 25 that her residency would not be renewed, according to the suit. Nigro appealed the non-renewal action and a procedural subcommittee overturned the decision.

Following the appeal, Dennehy officially placed Nigro on probation in April, stipulating that she repeat the first year of the residency program and that she undergo monthly counseling, the suit states.

Believing the defendants exhibited a pattern of conduct indicating Nigro would not be treated fairly, she resigned from the program, according to the lawsuit.

Nigro is seeking $500,000 in compensatory damages jointly from each defendant for the violation of due process, $500,000 in compensatory damages jointly from each defendant for the breach of contract claim, $500,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages jointly from each defendant for the defamation claim, and $1 million total in compensatory and punitive damages jointly from each defendant for the intentional infliction of emotional distress.

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This is quite common in some of the Residency Programs in the USA!


This is sham journalism. One of the major responsibilities of residency program directors is to protect patients from physicians in training who are not appropriate for promotion or who may not even be appropriate for clinical care of patients. You present the story as if Dr Dennehy et al are guilty and in fact they may be heros and life savers for protecting patients from an unqualified resident.


The article seems to offer no opinion but merely states facts pertaining to a lawsuit as it was filed- is this sham journalism? You propose that Dennehy et al may be heroes for removing an unqualified resident. Couldn't it be instead that Dennehy et al are monsters for taking away a qualified doctor from the community that could have saved a life...


Residency training directors wield tremendous power, even after residency. Is there a body that exerts regulatory control over them ? What are the facts of the case ? Was the program in violation of work hour limits ? Is this case the first of its kind ?

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