Lawyers for LHSC and former CEO spar over termination
LONDON, ONT. -- Both sides in the wrongful termination lawsuit filed by former London Health Sciences Centre CEO Paul Woods are speaking out to CTV News.
On Wednesday, Dr. Woods filed a $2.5 million Statement of Claim against LHSC for a bad faith termination, loss of reputation, and violation of his human rights.
Woods has admitted to travelling five times to the United States during the pandemic and quarantining at home for two weeks following each trip to visit his daughter and fiancé.
His lawyer, Michael Wright asserts that then-Chair of the Board of Directors, Amy Walby, was aware of the travel.
"I don’t know what she communicated to the rest of her colleagues on the board, but certainly the chair of the board was completely aware of the nature and frequency of Dr Woods’ travel," says Wright.
But after CTV News contacted Walby, the lawyer defending LHSC against the lawsuit fired back.
"Dr. Woods is trying to shift blame for his personal choice to travel to the United States, and onto the shoulders of the chair of the volunteer board," argues Brian Gover.
On Thursday following her resignation, Walby issued a statement, "While I stand firm in my belief and understanding that I did nothing wrong, my resignation is a reflection of my deep commitment to doing what is best for the greater good."
But Woods’ lawyer points to a previous statement issued by the hospital on Monday that, “the board had no advance notice of, and did not approve his travel outside Canada.”
"The statement, that she must have approved, and was issued on Monday was wrong,” argues Wright. “It was untruthful, and it was defamatory. She bears responsibility for that."
The hospital’s lawyer rejects that description of events, based on what may become part of the hospital’s defence.
"Information was given on a piecemeal basis to Ms Walby, over time, and at times when the pandemic was not as pervasive," explains Gover.
Woods was terminated by the board ‘without cause’, so a clause in his contract would pay him a year’s salary and benefits, in excess of $500,000.
His lawsuit, however, seeks $2.5 million from the hospital for damage to his reputation and violating his human rights.
So will the ultimate loser in the legal dispute be the local healthcare system?
"My answer to that is, this would have been avoidable had the London Health Sciences Centre not acted in bad faith," says Woods’ lawyer. "By the board deciding to save their own reputations and sacrificing the reputation of Dr Woods, it damaged his career."
"The hospital is committed to doing the right thing, and to the responsible stewardship of public resources," counters the LHSC’s lawyer.
In an email to Walby included in his Statement of Claim, Woods admits traveling to the United States during the pandemic may have ‘some optics issues.’
But his lawyer disputes that Woods bears responsibility for the pandemic travel scandal that has engulfed LHSC over the past week.
"I don’t believe he brought it upon himself, because he went through the step of seeking approval from the chair of the board before he engaged in any travel," says Wright.
But Gover says the hospital will provide more details soon.
"We will serve and file our Statement of Defence and it will give the other side of the story. So far you have only heard Dr. Woods’ side of the story."
LHSC denies the allegations in the Statement of Claim and will reply in a Statement of Defence soon.
The claims made by Dr. Woods and his lawyer have not been tested in court.