A Quincy psychiatrist fired by Mass General Brigham after it rejected his request for an exemption for Covid-19 shots on both medical and religious grounds is appealing a judge's ruling to toss his case.
US District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor dismissed Dr. James Wines's suit against the hospital system last month, partly for refusing to say why he deserved a medical exemption unless hospital lawyers agreed not to tell anybody at the hospital - even though he had already stated a reason in his exemption request - but mainly because the doctor refused to comply with several other edicts by Saylor related to pre-trial discovery, such as agreeing to answer a questionnaire by hospital lawyers to all former employees suing over their Covid-19-related firings and agreeing not to publicly release the names of members of a hospital committee that rejected his request for fear they would be subject to harassment or worse.
Wines filed a motion for a "protective order" under which he would only agree to answer questions about his exemption request if the lawyers agreed not to share his answers with any hospital employees, and said he would not answer a question about whom he had talked to at the hospital at his request, for fear they would be targeted for retaliation. He said his vaccination status was "protected private information."
Saylor, however, said Wines had to follow orders from the court if he wanted his case to continue - including answering questions he'd approved:
Dr. Wines may well believe that the questionnaire is problematic, but the court is the arbitrator of discovery disputes, not the litigants. Second, Dr. Wines contends that he “did not in any way assent” to the protective order [to not identify members of the hospital exemption panels]. The court has ordered him to comply with the protective order. His assent is therefore irrelevant. Third, Dr. Wines contends that the modified protective order has been “drastically altered” through the word “communicator.” Whether the order has been altered—drastically or otherwise—is irrelevant. The court found good cause to enter the order, and Dr. Wines must comply if he wishes to maintain this action.
In its answer to Wines's filings, Mass General Brigham said the remaining 160 or so employees still suing - more than 40 have been dropped from the case for various reasons - had answered the questions. And, the hospital said, Wines himself had already told the hospital his supposed medical reason for not getting shots.
Wines was originally part of a large group of MGB employees who sued in 2021 over their firings for refusing to get Covid-19 shots. He dropped out of that action and hired his own attorney, then dropped him less than two months later and took on his own case pro se in June, 2022.
Wines filed his appeal of Saylor's dismissal this week in the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston.