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State settles with University of Iowa surgeon 12 years after operating room incident
$55K settlement is far less than the $1.4M verdict he once sought
IOWA CITY — Wrapping up a medical drama that started 12 years ago in a University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics operating room, the State Appeal Board agreed Monday to settle a 2020 lawsuit from a former employee accusing UIHC of improperly sharing details of the incident with prospective employers.
The settlement pays former cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon Domenico Calcaterra, now of Florida, a modest sum of $55,000 — well below the more than $1.4 million he sought at one point, according to court records.
Calcaterra sued UIHC, the Iowa Board of Regents and the state in August 2020 for breach of contract by releasing information about his November 2010 operating room incident to prospective employers, saying he lost job opportunities because of it.
The Iowa Board of Medicine in 2013 publicly accused Calcaterra of a “pattern of disruptive behavior and/or unethical or unprofessional conduct,” issuing a news release outlining accusations that Calcaterra shoved another doctor during a 2010 surgery, according to media reports.
A year later, the board’s disciplinary action wrapped with a settlement penalizing Calcaterra with a citation, warning and $5,000 fine. The board posted that settlement on its website and issued another news release reiterating allegations against the doctor, “although those allegations had not been admitted to or even recited in the settlement,” according to court documents.
Years later, Calcaterra — who voluntarily left UIHC in 2012 — said the settlement and details still were available on the board’s public website and “adversely impacting his medical career.”
In 2018, he asked the board whether Iowa law bars it from making investigative information public, and the board didn’t answer that question or issue any order on the matter. After courts and judges got involved, the board answered “no” to his question.
In April 2020, a district court disagreed and found Iowa law to be “clear and unambiguous” in barring public disclosure of investigative information. The Iowa Supreme Court eventually agreed with the district court.
In August 2020, Calcaterra sued UIHC, citing specific incidents of professional harm — including when he was hired in November 2019 for a job in Florida but was “rejected at the last minute.”
“The credentialing official for that hospital group shared a letter from the UIHC dated June 14, 2019 that was addressed to the hospital’s recruiting agency” and disclosed previous allegations against him, according to his lawsuit.
The saga over the years came to the fore and set precedent on several occasions for several reasons, including when a judge ruled Calcaterra couldn’t sue under a pseudonym and when the high court in 2021 found that “the facts that brought about the charges are precisely the type of investigative information that the legislature intended to be privileged and confidential.”
Bias, discrimination settlement
The State Appeal Board also agreed Monday to settle a 2021 lawsuit in which a former acting director of UIHC’s Central Sterilizing Services accused the university of gender and pay discrimination, asserting she was excluded from meetings and decision making, paid less and fired after reporting concerns of bias and unsafe practices.
The settlement pays Courtney Mace Davis a total of $312,500, which includes attorney fees.
Davis through her lawsuit accused UIHC and the Board of Regents not only of gender and pay discrimination, but also retaliation for reporting her concerns. She sought compensation for lost wages, humiliation, anguish and weakened employment opportunities. She also asked the court to force UIHC to take steps to prevent discrimination in the future — like imposing training, implementing monitoring and barring disproportionate discipline for women.
Neither of Monday’s approved settlements constitute an admission of guilt, according to the documents.
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