SANTA ANA — A Fullerton doctor who lost a racial discrimination lawsuit earlier this week and was ordered to pay more than $650,000 to another physician will appeal the jury's verdict, his attorney said Friday.
"It was a totally unjust verdict," said Donald R. Beck, the attorney for Dr. Kihong Kwon, a thoracic surgeon.
In one the largest awards for a racial discrimination case in Orange County, a jury found that Kwon discriminated against Dr. Kenneth Bridges, a black physician, and unjustly fired him just 10 days after hiring him.
According to testimony during the three-week trial, Kwon had referred to Bridges as that "dumb nigger," Bridges' attorneys said.
Beck said that Bridges' termination had nothing to do with race. Rather, Bridges was fired because his surgical abilities were "not up to Dr. Kwon's standards," Beck said.
Among Kwon's complaints was that Bridges handled surgical equipment in an unsterile manner and improperly harvested veins for transplant operations.
Beck said that he plans to file a notice of appeal. He also said that if Bridges ultimately prevails, Kwon will have the pay the $657,000 jury award out of his own pocket. "It's not covered by insurance," he said.
The award could exceed more than $1 million when pre-judgment interest and attorney fees are added to the sum.
Kwon did not return repeated calls to his office.
According to the lawsuit, Bridges was hired by Kwon in 1986 after answering Kwon's advertisement in the Annals of Thoracic Medicine. The doctors worked together on about a dozen surgeries without problems, said one of Bridges' attorneys, Mark T. Quigley.
"There were no complaints or criticisms about" Bridges' work, Quigley said. He added that the defense was "a sham. Something made up after the fact."
Quigley alleged that Kwon retaliated against Bridges after finding out that Bridges and his wife were house hunting in Kwon's neighborhood. Kwon did not want the couple living so close to him, Quigley contended.
In an interview Thursday, Bridges said that he felt "vindicated" by the jury's verdict, which was reached Wednesday after three days of deliberations. Bridges now works in private practice in Pennsylvania.