Murrells Inlet doctors face $2 million lawsuit

  • Wednesday, August 1, 2012

  • Updated Wednesday, August 1, 2012 5:18 am

Another Waccamaw Neck physician’s office has been hit with a huge lawsuit by a former employee.
Erin Forbes, a Georgetown County resident, is seeking $2 million in the suit against her former employer, Inlet Cardiology and Associates.
 The suit also names as defendants Dr. Thomas Chandler, Dr. Mitchell Devlin, Dr. Darren Mullins, Inlet Cardio Administrator Debbie Denault, Traci Helms and Georgette Maus.
The defendants say the whole story will be told during the legal process.
Forbes, represented by attorney J. Lewis Cromer, was forced to resign her job as a billing manager at Inlet Cardiology in May 2011, according to the lawsuit.
She said her troubles began after 15-year-old Christian Helms — the son of her co-worker, Traci Helms — shot a police officer at Socastee High School.
After that incident, Traci Helms – according to the lawsuit — started receiving abusive comments and threats.
Helms, the suit states, accused Forbes “of making a particularly threatening phone call and confronted her in the presence of numerous others.”
The suit states Helms had a recording of the call which she played in front of Forbes and her co-workers.
“The recording contained abusive comments, profanity, as well as threats,” according to the suit.
Forbes denied making the call or making any threats towards Helms.
In her suit, Forbes claims Helms continued to believe it was her voice on the recording and played the tape for Denault, Chandler and Devlin who all agreed with Helms.
After that, Forbes claims her work environment “became hostile and she was harassed, cursed and abused” by Helms and Denault who called her “incompetent” and other names.
Forbes wrote a letter of resignation and was going to turn it in when Denault allegedly remarked “good, it’s about time.”
Because of that Forbes says she decided to not resign but Denault “snatched” her resignation letter from her and forced her to leave the building.
She claims when Denault was forcing her out of the building he said he would make sure she never worked in Georgetown or Horry counties again, the suit states.
Forbes said she had a very difficult time finding a new job in the medical field because she had been “black listed,” according to the document.
She eventually was hired at Waccamaw Oncology but one of the partners in that practice — Mullins — is friends with Chandler and Devlin.
Forbes says because of that friendship, Mullins “continually exhibited a hostile, demeaning and sometimes hateful attitude toward [her] calling her a ‘dumb blonde, incompetent and careless.’”
The suit continues with Forbes claiming Devlin and Maus accused her of soliciting with employees of Inlet Cardio in an attempt to “unlawfully and improperly” get patient information from that practice.
Forbes said Maus sent the accusations – which she says are untrue — to her boss causing her to be terminated from Waccamaw Oncology.
The Georgetown Times contacted the defendants in the suit Thursday.
Denault issued a statement on behalf of Inlet Cardio.
“We have received the complaint and have referred it to our legal counsel to prepare a response. We will respond to the allegations in an appropriate forum,” Denault wrote. “As with most situations, there are two sides to every story. The complaint which was filed is only one side of the story. We ask that everyone reserve judgment until all of the facts are known. Inlet Cardiopulmonary & Associates remains committed to providing the best care to our patients and will concentrate on that goal throughout this process.”
Dr. Mullins said he also will let the lawsuit go through the legal process.
Along with the $2 million, Forbes is asking for any punitive damage the jury sees fit to award.
This is the second medical practice on the Waccamaw Neck to be sued by former workers in recent months.
Three former employees of Dr. Michele Mittelbronn, a physician at Coastal Dermatology LLC are seeking $1 million each in suits they have filed against that doctor. The three claim abusive actions by Mittelbronn made it impossible to continue working at that practice.

By Scott Harper
sharper@gtowntimes.com

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