Not appealing: Fourth time’s the charm for fired UVA nurse

The University of Virginia will be paying Susan Jordan’s legal fees in a case UVA appealed four times.
Rammelkamp Foto The University of Virginia will be paying Susan Jordan’s legal fees in a case UVA appealed four times. Rammelkamp Foto

Up until last week, everyone who has reviewed Susan Jordan’s firing, from state hearing officers to a circuit court judge to the Court of Appeals of Virginia, agrees that she was unfairly terminated—everyone except her former employer, the University of Virginia Medical Center.

It wasn’t until a February 2 appeals court decision affirming her reinstatement that UVA finally threw in the towel and decided not to appeal a fifth time. “We are not going to appeal any further, and we are not going to have any additional comment,” says UVA Health System spokesperson Eric Swensen in an e-mail.

“I’m very excited and so glad it’s ended and turned out the way it did,” says Jordan. “I’m not excited they dragged me through this for two years.”

Jordan got in hot water with the university in 2014 and was escorted from the building for looking at her ex-husband’s medical records “without authorization,” according to her termination letter.

What the letter didn’t note was that Kurt Jordan, also a hospital employee, asked his ex-wife to help him understand his medical records. He had cancer and was in an advanced stage of myeloma, and in 2012, he had made Jordan his agent for his durable power of attorney and his advanced medical directive. He’d filed a form with the medical center that authorized her to access his records, which was lost, according to the appeals court memorandum, and he filed a new one after Jordan was fired.

Four times after a clinical visit, Kurt, weak with tremors and having a hard time seeing, came to Jordan’s department and asked her to help him understand his lab results. At least two of those times Jordan’s supervisor was present. Because Jordan used her own code to access his records, she was shown the door April 23, 2014.

A hearing officer found that Kurt was looking at his own records, which is allowed, and Jordan was acting as his agent. The officer upheld Jordan’s grievance in August 2014. UVA appealed to the Department of Human Resources Management, which also found that her conduct didn’t violate medical center policies. Again the hospital appealed, and March 24, Albemarle Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Higgins ruled in Jordan’s favor.

Undaunted, the university appealed for a fourth time to the state appeals court, which again ruled that Jordan did not act improperly in helping Kurt review and understand his own medical records. Jordan violated neither federal nor state law, said the court in a 13-page memorandum, and it rejected the medical center’s contention that the power of attorney did not give her authorization to access Kurt’s records.

UVA read the state code “too broadly” and its interpretation was “wrong,” say the judges. “In short, Jordan did nothing wrong.”

The appeals court sent the case back to Albemarle Circuit Court to determine the amount UVA must pay for Jordan’s legal fees, including the foray to appellate court.

“I’m just thrilled and a little bit shocked they’re not going to go to the next step,” says Jordan’s attorney, Janice Redinger. “We’re happy they’re not appealing. This has been prolonged enough.”

“I’m glad I had the financial backing to follow it to the end,” says Jordan. “Most people in my position would not.”

She adds, “I just wish Kurt was here to celebrate. That’s the hard part.” Kurt Jordan died January 30, 2015.

UVA Health System’s decision not to appeal comes the same week the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce named it the 2016 recipient of its Hovey Dabney Award for Corporate Citizenship.

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