Where is this case filed?
In July 2015, a class action lawsuit was filed against EM-I Medical Services dba EmCare (“EM-I”), alleging that EM-I failed to pay all incentive compensation it promised to pay its doctors. The case was filed in San Joaquin County Superior Court. You may view the class action complaint that was filed by clicking here. The case has since moved to arbitration before the American Arbitration Association (Case No. 01-16-0000-3565). You can view the arbitration demand by clicking here. Below is some additional information regarding this case.
What is this case about?
Dr. John Woodbury, D.O. and Tom Wendel, M.D. are physicians who contracted with EM-I to provide medical services in California. The lawsuit alleges that EM-I entered into compensation agreements with physicians it employed, which provided incentive compensation/bonuses based on the number of Relative Value Units (“RVUs”) assigned to the physician and/or the number of hours worked. The lawsuit also alleges that EM-I unilaterally capped the amount of bonuses paid based on RVUs without telling the physicians. The lawsuit further alleges that, as a result of this cap, physicians were not paid the full bonuses to which they were entitled, which was a breach of the compensation agreements EM-I authored. Dr. Woodbury and Dr. Wendel seek to recover the unpaid bonuses, penalties, attorneys’ fees and costs, and other appropriate relief under California law.
Who brought this case against EM-I?
Dr. Woodbury and Dr. Wendel are two well-respected physicians in practice for over 30 years who both worked for EM-I for over 10 years, primarily out of Doctors Hospital in Manteca. They filed this case seeking to represent a class of similarly situated physicians who were also underpaid their RVU bonuses.
Who is potentially included in the proposed class action?
Dr. Woodbury and Dr. Wendel seek to represent a class of all physicians who have been employed by EM-I in the State of California (within the last four years) and who have signed or entered into compensation agreements that provide incentive compensation or bonuses based on (1) Relative Value Units (RVUs) or similar metrics and/or (2) the number of hours worked. If you fall within this group, you are a potential class member.
What could I potentially be entitled to in this case?
This action poses a legal question about whether EM-I fully paid class members all incentive compensation according to its compensation agreements. Dr. Woodbury and Dr. Wendel both believe that EM-I did not fully pay all incentive compensation, and therefore that the company is liable to all physicians in California who entered into compensation agreements with EM-I from at least July 2011 to the present for unpaid bonuses, interest, attorneys’ fees, and other penalties.
If you were eligible for incentive compensation and not paid the full amount of your incentive compensation, as Dr. Woodbury and Dr. Wendel allege, you could be entitled to a substantial recovery under the law including unpaid incentive compensation, interest, penalties, and your attorneys’ fees. We have calculated Dr. Woodbury’s potential individual recovery at over $200,000 and Dr. Wendel’s potential recovery at over $200,000 as well. (These calculations are estimates of potential recovery and are not a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of any potential claim you may have.)
The amount of compensation to which you may be entitled will depend on the length of your employment with EM-I during the last five years, the terms of your compensation agreement with EM-I, whether EM-I fully paid you all bonuses you were entitled to, and potentially other factors not listed here.
Is this case in court or in arbitration?
Although the case was initially filed in court, the case is presently in arbitration. At the outset of the case, before there were any determinations on the merits, EM-I filed a motion to have the case removed from court and placed in private arbitration. EM-I claims that the employment agreement it drafted and required physicians to sign provides for arbitration with a private arbitrator rather than a public jury trial.
After significant delays in court, Dr. Woodbury and Dr. Wendel have filed their case in arbitration and are seeking to have a class action in arbitration. The AAA Arbitration Demand, which was filed on February 2, 2016, can be viewed at here. Although arbitration has special rules and streamlined procedures, employees are generally afforded all the same rights and remedies in arbitration as they would have in court.
What is the status of the arbitration?
Several months ago, an experienced attorney, Louise A. LaMothe, was selected as the arbitrator in this matter. On September 15, 2016, Arbitrator LaMothe issued an Award on Clause Construction finding that EM-I’s arbitration agreement permits Dr. Woodbury and Dr. Wendel to pursue a class action in arbitration. This is an important first step in Dr. Woodbury and Dr. Wendel obtaining relief on behalf of a potential class. The Arbitrator has stayed the proceedings until October 15, 2016, to allow the parties to move to confirm or vacate the Clause Construction Award in a California Superior Court. We anticipate the arbitration will proceed following the expiration of the stay on October 15, 2016.
How does arbitration work?
Although the arbitrator applies the same substantive law to the claims as a court would, arbitrators follow procedural rules (in this case the AAA rules) that are generally more streamlined and less formal than court procedures and rules. The purported goal of these procedural rules is to provide a faster and more efficient means of resolving disputes than would be available in a public court.
There are several potential advantages to arbitration including that arbitrations are typically more private (the arbitrator’s decisions are not normally made public), faster (no court delays), and less costly (the employer typically pays the bulk of arbitration costs). The primary potential downside to arbitration is that the arbitrator’s award is often considered final and there are very narrow grounds for appeal in comparison to a case in court.
Who is the arbitration provider?
The arbitration provider here is the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”), which is a large national company that provides private arbitration of disputes. AAA is a well-established not-for-profit organization with offices throughout the U.S. AAA provides services to individuals and organizations who wish to resolve conflicts out of court. AAA has a roster of experienced arbitrators with subject matter expertise, many of whom are former judges or experienced attorneys. An arbitrator is selected at the beginning of the case through a selection process and then presides over the case, manages protocol and procedure, hears and evaluates evidence, and then ultimately issues an award.
Is this case a class action yet?
Dr. Woodbury and Dr. Wendel are seeking to have a class action in arbitration under the AAA Supplementary Rules for Class Arbitrations. EM-I and its lawyers are taking the position that there should be no class action in arbitration.
On September 15, 2016, Arbitrator LaMothe sided with Claimants and rejected EM-I’s position, finding that EM-I’s arbitration agreement permits Drs. Woodbury and Wendel to pursue a class action in arbitration. The arbitrator has not yet decided whether the class that Dr. Woodbury and Dr. Wendel have proposed will be certified for a class action arbitration.
Dr. Woodbury and Dr. Wendel believe that they have a strong argument that this case should proceed as a class action. They will ask the arbitrator to certify this case as a class action. If the arbitrator certifies the case as a class action, you should receive a notice in the mail notifying you of your rights. If the arbitrator ultimately decides that this case cannot proceed as a class action, you will need to assert your own claims against EM-I or risk waiving your rights and remedies.
What are Dr. Woodbury and Dr. Wendel’s thoughts on this case?
Dr. Woodbury and Dr. Wendel believe that the most efficient and just result will come from a class action in arbitration on behalf of all physicians who were not paid their full RVU bonuses. While Dr. Woodbury and Dr. Wendel could simply proceed on their own with their own individual claims, they feel a responsibility to try to obtain class action relief for all the other physicians who were not paid the full amount of their bonuses. Although Dr. Woodbury and Dr. Wendel are valiantly leading the charge, they have asked for other doctors to step forward to assist them in their cause. Dr. Woodbury and Dr. Wendel believe that if more physicians step forward to file claims in arbitration with AAA, this will improve the chances of obtaining broader relief on behalf of other physicians, including potentially a class of all physicians in California who entered into compensation agreements with EM-I from at least July 2011 to the present.
How can I help?
If you would like to assist in any way or provide information, you may contact the lawyers who are representing Dr. Woodbury and Dr. Wendel at the below email address and phone number. The lawyers are currently trying to collect compensation addenda referencing RVU bonuses to determine the complete scope of the allegations related to unpaid bonuses.
Attorney Alexander M. Medina
Can EM-I retaliate against me if I get involved?
EM-I cannot legally retaliate against you for asserting your rights or becoming involved in this action.
How can I find more information and stay informed about the lawsuit/arbitration?
You may view the class action complaint that was filed by clicking here. You can also view the demand for arbitration by clicking here. You may also contact the lawyers who are representing Dr. Woodbury and Dr. Wendel at the following address and phone number:
Attorney Alexander M. Medina
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