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Wortham v. Acadia Healthcare, LLC

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Third Circuit

March 18, 2015

ROGER WORTHAM, M.D.
v.
ACADIA HEALTHCARE, LLC, ET AL

Page 603

APPEAL FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, PARISH OF LAFAYETTE, NO. C-20135893. HONORABLE HERMAN C. CLAUSE, DISTRICT JUDGE.

Timothy W. Basden, Alan K. Breaud, Breaud & Meyers, Lafayette, LA, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT: Roger Wortham, M.D.

Matthew Brown, Michelle K. Buford, Sullivan Stolier Knight LC, Lafayette, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT-APPELLANT: Acadia Healthcare, LLC.

Court composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, John D. Saunders, Elizabeth A. Pickett, John E. Conery, and D. Kent Savoie, Judges. Cooks, J., concurs and assigns reasons. Conery, J., concurs in part and dissents in part and assigns reasons.

OPINION

Page 604

[14-718 La.App. 3 Cir. 1] Elizabeth A. Pickett, Judge.

Both Dr. Roger Wortham and his former employer, Acadia Healthcare, L.L.C., appeal the judgment of the trial court, which awarded Dr. Wortham amounts due under the terms of an employment contract and attorney fees, but not penalty wages.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

Dr. Wortham accepted a job with Acadia Healthcare in October 2010. He signed a one-year contract with an effective date of January 15, 2011. As part of the contract, Dr. Wortham assigned to the hospital the right to bill for his services in exchange for an annual salary of $180,000.00, an additional fee for certain consultations, reimbursement for certain expenses (including for licenses, dues, and continuing education), and a " bonus" of " 50% of collections over costs." After the one-year term of the original contract expired, Dr. Wortham continued working for Acadia Healthcare without executing a new contract. Dr. Wortham tendered his resignation on January 24, 2013, effective on March 24, 2013.

Prior to leaving, Dr. Wortham requested information about the amount he had billed and the costs associated with his practice for the purpose of determining his bonus. He also submitted reimbursement for two continuing education conferences from July 2011 and July 2012, his 2012 and 2013 dues for state and national medical associations, and his 2011 and 2012 Board of Pharmacies license. He received no reply. When he continued to receive no reply, he hired an attorney to make inquiries.

Dr. Wortham filed a petition in district court on November 19, 2013, seeking bonus payments for 2012 and the partial 2013 year, the reimbursements that he submitted in January 2013, and penalty wages, and attorney fees in accordance [14-718 La.App. 3 Cir. 2] with La.R.S. 23:632 . Acadia Healthcare maintained that the contract expired in January 2012 and Dr. Wortham was not entitled to bonus payments thereafter. It also disputed the reimbursement of expenses. Immediately before trial on January 13, 2014, Acadia Healthcare submitted the billing and expense information requested by Dr. Wortham. After a trial, the trial court awarded $21,729.93 in earned bonuses for 2012 and 2013, $7,021.76 in expense reimbursements, $11,409.50 in attorney fees, and $804.25 in litigation expenses. The trial court did not award penalty wages as sought by Dr. Wortham. Both Dr. Wortham and Acadia Healthcare have appealed.

ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR

On appeal, Acadia Healthcare asserts one broad assignment of error:

The trial court erred as a matter of law by enlarging the scope of the Employment Agreement when its language was clear and unambiguous, and, based on that erroneous ruling, by awarding [the p]laintiff bonuses, reimbursement for certain business and medical expenses, and attorney fees pursuant to the Louisiana Wage Payment Act, La.R.S. 23:631 et seq.

In his appeal, Dr. Wortham asserts one assignment of error: that the trial court erred in denying his claim for penalty wages under La.R.S. 23:632. He also asks for attorney fees for work done in this appeal.

DISCUSSION

The Employment Agreement

Acadia Healthcare argues that the Employment Agreement is ...


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