CLEVELAND — In the legal battle between MetroHealth and fired CEO Akram Boutros, a Cuyahoga County judge has dismissed two of the counts filed in a lawsuit against the health system by its former leader.
Boutros was fired by MetroHealth in November, 2022, one month before his planned retirement. The removal of Boutros came amid claims that he authorized more than $1.9 million in bonus payments to himself over a four-year period beginning in 2018, without disclosing those payments to MetroHealth's Board of Trustees. Boutros responded by filing two lawsuits, with one alleging that the MetroHealth Board of Trustees violated the law in the hiring process of his replacement and one for breach of contract, defamation, wrongful termination, and civil liability for criminal acts related to retaliation and intimidation.
In Boutros' second lawsuit, filed in December, he claimed that "through their breaches of contract, defamation, broken promises, pressure tactics, wrongful termination of his employment and criminal acts," MetroHealth's board cost him more than $8 million in earned compensation, severance and benefits. The suit adds that the defendants "obliterated Dr. Boutros' legacy at MetroHealth and destroyed his future, costing him opportunities for prospective employment worth at least $20 million additional dollars. The anguish and suffering from the defendants' groundless assault on his reputation has caused Dr. Boutros additional tens of millions more in damage."
There were ten total counts in the second lawsuit filed by Boutros. In March of this year, MetroHealth filed a motion asking for the dismissal of two specific counts in the suit:
- Count 8 - which accused MetroHealth of retaliation
- Count 9 - accusing MetroHealth of intimidation by "false or fraudulent writing"
On Tuesday, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Shannon Gallagher dismissed both counts. "This court. when construing the material allegations in the complaint in favor of plaintiff as true, finds beyond doubt that plaintiff could prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief for counts 8 and 9 of the complaint," Gallagher wrote. "Counts 8 and 9 also fail because plaintiff's complaint fails to assert that defendants made any unlawful threats of harm to a person or property."
In February, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John P. O'Donnell dismissed a third complaint filed by Boutros: An administrative appeal seeking to overturn Metro's decision to fire him. The hospital had previously asked for the matter to be thrown out, saying the court "does not have jurisdiction to decide [Boutros'] claims" and that Boutros and his attorneys presented "no case or controversy" when they appealed his termination.
Also in February, Boutros and his attorney Jason Bristol sat down for one-on-one interview with 3News' Christi Paul. With multiple lawsuits filed, Boutros and Bristol were asked how far are they willing to take this case?
"If this doesn't get resolved, this case is going to be tried," his attorney Jason Bristol responded. "A jury of members of Cuyahoga County are gonna decide if what happened to Dr. Boutros was fair and whether the board is responsible for the utter destruction to his reputation, to his family, to his career. Dr. Boutros went from being one of the most respected healthcare executives in America, then in one board action, to the list of greatest free-falls."
Boutros was asked if there was any chance that a compromise could be reached between himself and his former employer to avoid taking the case to trial.
"Let me just say it this way: If the board or their counsel want to have a discussion, absolutely I'm willing to figure something out," he stated.
Editor's Note: 3News' Ben Axelrod and Christi Paul contributed to this story