Caution: Writing a Letter of Recommendation

November 22, 2011

BE CAREFUL OF WHO YOU WRITE A LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION FOR. Now that we have that straighten out, here is a short story on why.

A Louisiana Doctor was fired for diverting Demerol from his patients; not to mention showing up to work under the influence. Another doctor, apparently an acquaintance wrote a letter of recommendation for the Louisiana doctor, upon his dismissal. The doctor took his glowing recommendation and found a new job thousands of miles away in Washington.

About a year into working at this new job the doctor was caught “under the influence,” and failed to properly administer anesthesia and let his patient, fall into a permanent vegetative state. The family filed a malpractice lawsuit against the doctor and the medical center he worked at. The case was settled with the doctor paying $1 million and the medical center paying $7.5 million.

Now here is the kicker, the doctor who wrote the letter of recommendation was not dropped from the lawsuit, due to his glowing report. The court ruled he engaged in negligent misrepresentation and ordered him to pay the medical center $8.2 million in total damages, representing the medical center’s full settlement amount plus its legal bills.

The story gets worse, his medical malpractice insurance would not cover him in the suit. His insurance argued that since he hadn’t personally committed bodily injury, the coverage guarantee did not apply.

In the end he still got stuck having to pay $8.2 million in damages for someone else’s medical error, based simply on a three-sentence evaluation he had penned.