Lawsuit: Encounter with WV Media CEO left nurse with PTSD

A woman claims a violent encounter with a local media executive during an insurance physical left her with post-traumatic stress disorder and unable to continue working as a registered nurse.

Melinda Heiss, a registered nurse doing contract work for Portamedic, went to Albert Bray Cary Jr.’s office at WOWK-TV on April 9, 2012 to perform a physical examination, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in Kanawha Circuit Court. Cary, president and CEO of West Virginia Media Holdings, was seeking to buy a life insurance policy and an examination was required.

Heiss checked Cary’s vital signs and drew a vial of blood after he signed the various permission forms, but he grew hostile after she began asking him questions, the lawsuit claims. Cary refused to answer her questions, saying he’d already given the answers to the insurance agent.

The nurse explained that she was a medical professional and that her company had protocols that she had to follow. The lawsuit alleges that Cary still would not answer her questions and became “very hostile and belligerent” toward Heiss.

The lawsuit said Heiss tried to end the examination because of Cary’s uncooperative behavior and began to pack up her things. But Cary, Heiss claims, stood in front of the door and told her she was “not going anywhere” until she gave him back the vial of blood she’d drawn.

Heiss claims she’d never experienced such a situation and used her cellphone to call Portamedic for instructions. She alleges that Cary grabbed the phone from her hand while she was on the call and pulled it away from her, taking some of her hair with it.

She said she slipped past him while he was on the phone, left the building to put her bags in the car but went back inside to retrieve her phone. The lawsuit said she asked a man near the building entrance to get her phone back from Cary, but at that point Cary was running toward her with another phone.

He shoved the phone in her face and told her to talk to his insurance agent, the lawsuit said. But when she began telling the agent what happened Cary grabbed the phone again, pulling more hair from her head, and screamed into the phone, “There was no lock on that door,” the lawsuit alleges.

The agent pleaded with Heiss to finish the exam or at least get a urine sample. Heiss agreed to get a sample but wouldn’t finish the physical. She gave him a sample cup she’d retrieved from her car but, rather than use a restroom, she claims Cary stepped into an office to provide the sample and returned with his pants unzipped.

Heiss said he was “very rude and insulting” when he gave her the sample. The lawsuit claims Cary’s conduct during the examination was “willful, wanton, grossly reckless and indifferent to its effects” on Heiss and was “rude, crude, belligerent, insulting, provoking” and caused the woman to fear for her safety.

Heiss alleges the entire ordeal caused her to suffer severe emotional distress, so much so that she quit her job “because she was no longer able to perform her duties as a registered nurse.” She also claims that a psychiatrist diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Heiss claims the ordeal left her despondent and depressed, unable to perform ordinary household chores at her home.

Her husband, George Heiss, claims that the ordeal’s effect on his wife caused a “loss of consortium” between them. He said he first experienced great anger toward Cary and then great sadness because of his wife’s continued suffering.

The lawsuit claims that West Virginia Media Holdings is liable because the incident took place in the offices of WOWK-TV, a subsidiary of the company, and because the company had a duty to implement policies and procedures for dealing with visitors.

Heiss, represented by Charleston attorneys Mike Clifford and Ed ReBrook, is seeking damages for her injuries and punitive damages. She has demanded a jury trial.

Cary has 20 days to respond to the lawsuit’s claims; West Virginia Media has 30 days to respond.

Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at or 304-348-4850.

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