Former Penn State doctor awarded staggering $5.25 million in wrongful termination lawsuit

Former Penn State football team orthopedic physician Dr. Scott Lynch was awarded $5.25 million in damages in a lawsuit that alleged his firing was retaliation for complaints about James Franklin's involvement in medical decisions.
Penn State head football coach James Franklin
Penn State head football coach James Franklin / Dan Rainville / USA TODAY NETWORK

About six months after he was removed as the Penn State football team orthopedic physician and director of athletic medicine at Penn State, Dr. Scott Lynch filed a lawsuit against Penn State Health’s Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Dr. Kevin Black claiming that his dismissal was retaliation for his complaints about James Franklin’s involvement in medical treatment and return-to-play decisions. Five years later, after a seven-day trial, a Dauphin County jury awarded Lynch $5.25 million in damages. 

Both Penn State University and Franklin were removed as defendants in 2020 due to the statute of limitations, but the trial centered around Franklin’s interference with the medical staff and even brought high-profile athletes like former quarterback Trace McSorley to testify. Franklin was not called to testify, but Lynch is hoping that after his victory, the NCAA will open an investigation into Franklin’s behavior. 

In 2016 the NCAA instituted a policy guaranteeing the independence of medical staffs and according to Lynch in a phone interview with ESPN, “There’s not yet been one school punished for violating medical autonomy issues.”

Another key piece of the trial was the claims by Dr. Peter Seidenberg that Franklin and then-athletic director Sandy Barbour lobbied to have a player who had attempted suicide and was receiving psychiatric care medically disqualified from the team to open up a scholarship spot on the roster. However, on cross-examination, Lynch clarified that the player would still receive free tuition from Penn State.

So far, it is unclear whether this verdict will lead to any action against Franklin or the Penn State football program.

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