July 1, 2006 Recent Legal News

Hospital Physician

Hospital Patient




Peer Review





Hospital Physician

Integrated Healthcare v Fitzgibbons
Ca Ct. App

In a suit closely watched by not only the players but by many outsiders as well. Integrated (IIHI) sued Dr. Fitzgibbons for telling the truth.  The truth was embarrassing to the Holding Company since it came out that they were in desperate financial condition.  Fitzgibbons emailed the information that he had seen in the newspaper to the medical staff of which he was president.  The hospital then sued to keep Dr. Fitzgibbons quiet.  The hospital said that the email cost them $500,000 by Blue Cross postponed a final contract.  Fitzgibbons lost in the trial court, but won at the higher court.  He contended that this was  an illegal suit under the California anti-SLAPP statute, strategic lawsuit against public participation.  This is the Code of Civil Procedure 425.16. IIHI's takeover of Western Medical was opposed by the medical staff due to concerns over the financial condition of the outfit and its principal Dr. Chaudhuri, who had been involved in other failed ventures. A compromise was reached between the medical staff and IIHI.  The settlement was based on IIHI having certain financial conditions in place.  The did but then defaulted.  This was reported in the paper and was the basis for the disputed email.  IIHI attempted to say that the email was not in the public interest and lost on every point.  The tried to say that Fitzgibbons email was unprotected commercial speech since he tried to buy the hospital and was on the executive committee.  Both failed since the competitor status went when IIHI outbid Fitzgibbons' bid for the hospital and also hospitals and medical staffs can not be competitors by law.  IIHI failed to show that they would prevail at trial.  The email was opinion and not factual assertions.  There went the libel action.  It is interesting to note that the opinion chastises the attorneys for IIHI as not "reading a law closely" and could not prove the falsity of the accusations in the email.  The Court ended by awarding the appeal costs to Fitzgibbons. Dr. Fitzgibbon's legal fees are up to $160,000.  IIHI is considering an appeal to the California Supreme Court.  This would be a dumber move than their original suit.  The Supreme Court has previously ruled a broad interpretation of anti SLAPP which this case easily falls into.  In October, 2005 the legislature passed and the Governor signed a bill that gives costs and attorney fees to those defendants who have been illegally sued under the anti-SLAPP law (AB 1158).  It took effect immediately as emergency legislation.  

Nurses v Hospitals

" Nurses" have filed suit against multiple hospital for price fixing nurses salaries.  Behind the suit is SEIU who is attempting without success to unionize the nurses.  The suit states that the hospitals agreed to a ceiling on nurses pay and exchanged information about their nurse payments.  The hospitals see this for what it is, a shakedown.         Top

Hospital Patient

Patients v Catholic Health West

CHW has agreed to pay full or partial refunds to tens of thousands of patients the company is accused of overcharging the uninsured.  This includes those patients in Arizona, California and Nevada.  The percent refunded will depend on the income of the patients. 

US v Barnabas Health Care

Barnabas has agreed to pay the feds $265 million for overcharging for outliers.  This is the same thing that Tenet tried and was also caught.  Barnabas will have a monitor for the next six years on all Medicare billings.  This will cost mucho dinero.  The original basis of the suit was a whistleblower.  The whistleblower will get between 15% and 25% of the settlement, between $40 million and $65 million.  Barnabas got by with paying about half of the overcharges.  The kindly government said that since Barnabas is the largest provider of healthcare in the state, it did not want to make them fold.  That is a bad example for the court to set. 

  Mannick v Kaiser Health Plan
ND Ca.

Mannick is a wheelchair bound patient and the hospital had no wheelchair accessible shower or toilet.  The Court stated that there is no rule under the ADA that makes buildings build prior to the passage of the ADA be made ADA compliant.  There is nothing that states that if one part of the building is updated that the whole building must be updated.       Top



The American Nurses Association has filed a suit against HHS for failing to enforce Medicare's nursing standards.  It contends that JCAHO, which was not named, has lower standards for nursing than Medicare for which it is a deeming agency.  Remember who JCAHO works for and is paid by-the hospitals.  The suit is to force HHS to make JCAHO change its standards.         Top 


North Coast Women's v Superior Ct.
Ca. Supreme Ct.

California's Supreme Court has agreed to take the case where Christian fertility physicians refused to do artificial insemination on unmarried women.  The suer is a lesbian but the physician claim that sexual orientation had no part in the decision.  The appellate court had said the physicians had a right not to treat the woman.  This is the second win for the physicians.  Marital status is not a protected class in California, probably the only thing that isn't.  The plaintiff has had three children by artificial insemination since she filed this case in 2001. 

Wojewski v Rapid City Hosp.
8th Circ.

Dr. Wojewski, a cardiac surgeon had bipolar disorder.  He was given privileges with restrictions.  He had an episode of acute mania while performing open heart surgery.  He was dismissed and sued under the ADA.  The district court dismissed the physician's suit and the appellate court agreed.  The doctor was an independent contractor and therefore was not protected under the ADA. The physician hired his own staff, performed skilled work, leased his won office and did not receive social security or other benefits via the hospital.  

Physicians v UnitedHealth

Judge Moreno of Miami Federal Court has dismissed the physician class action suit against UnitedHealth and Coventry.  The other insurers had previously settled.  Judge Moreno could find no evidence of collusion by the two entities nor the use of the dreaded software that was used to automatically reduce physician fees.  The judge chastised the companies for their practices but could not fault them legally, only morally. 

Convicts v Executions

As all know the convicts on death row are challenging the lethal injection as cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment.  The state that it's painful.  A professor of Anesthesia has stated that which physicians knew, using Sodium Pentathal alone cuts out the pain argument.  Of course, it would take the state about 45 minutes to kill someone this painless way as opposed to five minutes using the potassium.  This is the same method as used by vets to euthanize animals.  

Louisiana v DeLoach
Guilty Plea

 Dr. Betty DeLoach has pled guilty to prescribing narcotics without a medical reason.  She faces three years in the slammer.  This follows by two weeks the guilty plea of a co-conspirator Dr. Joseph Gunther.  Both have agreed to testify for the state against Cherlyn "Cookie" Armstrong, RN who ran three clinics called Scherer's Medical Center.  Next door was the pharmacy also run by Armstrong.  There is yet another physician, Dr. Suzette Cullins who has pled not guilty and will be tried in July.  I don't understand how a nurse can run three clinics and pharmacies and how the physicians complained about how the clinics were run but continued to write the pre-printed narcotic prescriptions.

Arkansas v Mann

Dr. Randeep Mann has been accused of prescribing excessive amounts of controlled substances.  His license has been suspended pending a hearing.  The patients were drug addicts and abusers.

US v Main Street Pediatrics

Main Street Pediatrics of Bridgeport, Connecticut, has agreed to pay $450,000 to the feds and private insurers for billing for vaccines it received for free.  This is in lieu of a civil suit under the False Claims Act.

Tennessee v Yeates
Guilty Plea

Dr. Sheran Yeates, who has had his license revoked, pled guilty to overbilling.  He billed an ear testing procedure for each ear and not each patient.  He also has been charged with rape by a co-worker.         Top 


Lennon v Dacomed
Rhode Island Superior Ct.

Ten years ago Mr. Lennon had a Dura-II penile implant placed.  It had a faulty design and gave Mr. Lennon a ten year erection.  He has been embarrassed to go out and be seen with his grandchildren.  Due to medical problems he can not have surgery to remove the faulty device.  The jury award him $750,000 against the device maker but the judge reduced the award to $400,000.  The company is out of business but I assume they had purchased liability insurance.

Shutler v Augusta Health
Va. Supreme Ct.

In an interesting case the plaintiff's case for malpractice against the physician was dismissed "with prejudice" but the suit against the hospital can proceed.  For whatever reason the initial trial court ruling specifically let the physician off but not the employer.  The employer, Augusta, then ruled for a dismissal since the case against the physician was dismissed on its merits there could be no case against the employer.  A strange decision based on a strange set of facts.

Dalton v City Marietta
Ga Ct. App.

A neurosurgeon racing in his car to get to an emergency room to help a child had a minor accident.  He left the scene and when he arrived at the ER, decided that the child needed immediate surgery.  He told the hospital security people about the accident and the emergency.  On his way to the OR he was detained by the police who refused to let him proceed.  Another neurosurgeon was called and did the surgery.  The child died.  The family sued the city and the hospital after the original neurosurgeon testified that the child would have survived if he had been allowed to operate.  The city and the hospital lost the summary judgment.  

Filopovic v Dash
Ohio Ct. App

The patient sued the physician for med mal and the hospital for negligent credentialing.  The trial court stated that the peer review statutes were unconstitutional.  The appellate court reversed.  The case was remanded for discovery minus the peer review information.  

Druitt v Okada

The plaintiff alleged that Drs. Donald Okada, an GYN, who operated on the decedent for a left ovarian cyst.  He spilled cyst fluid in the abdomen and also needled fluid out of a right ovarian cyst again spilling fluid in the abdomen.  The left ovary turned out of be cancer of low malignant potential. He omitted the surgery  on the right ovary from his op report. She was sent to a cancer specialist who had no knowledge of the prior right ovarian fluid removal.  The consultant, since he had no knowledge of the right ovarian puncture recommended either surgery with removal of the ovary and the uterus or waiting and following with sonography.  There was no markers ordered by Dr. Okada.  Six months later he did a simple hysterectomy and oopherectomy but no lymph node removal or pelvic washings.  The pathologist, Dr. John O'Hara, was also sued for misreading the slides.  The plaintiff's pathologist read the slides ad invasive mucinous adenocarcinoma.  Dr. O'Hara also came to the OR but apparently did not want to do a frozen section on the ovary.  The 43 year old mother of two died.  The settlement was $910,000.   

McCloud v Mt. Sinai
Ohio Ct. App.

 The guardian of a child with CP sued the delivering physician and the hospital.  The jury awarded $30 MILLION.  The hospital appealed because the anesthesiologist was an independent contractor and not an employee.  The Court stated that a hospital may be liable for an independent contractor if the hospital holds itself out as a provider of medical services and the patient did not come there because the physician sent her there.  The Court stated that this was the case here and the hospital employee nursing staff and other employees were also involved.  The court sent the case back to the trial court to consider reducing the verdict. 

Martinez v UMASS Memorial
Mass. Super. Ct.

 The plaintiff sued a physician and a resident who was working at the hospital during and for his residency.  The resident stated he was immune since he was a public employee and immune from suit.  The Court stated that there was significant control over the resident by the private hospital that a jury may find he was a hospital employee.

Hoofnel v Segal
KY Supreme Ct.

The patient signed a consent form fir colon surgery which was performed but also the physician took out the uterus and ovaries.  The patient sued for battery.  The consent form actually stated the the surgeon was going to remove part of the colon, the appendix and possibly the ovaries.  The court stated that the signed consent topped the stated denial of permission.  Top

Peer Review

Benson v St. Joseph
SD Texas

In a strange case, the physician sued for disparate peer review.  The physician wanted about 1300 patient charts of his and multiple other physicians.  He won!  The court stated that the cost needed to be split but the physician was entitled to the charts to conduct a reasonable analysis to compare his peer review with that of other peer reviewed physicians.  

Pastore v Samson
Rhode Island Supreme Court

The patient's estate sued the physicians and the hospital.  They wanted during discovery the credentialing and privileging information of the two physicians.  The Supreme Court stated that peer review privilege extends to information pertaining to possible deviations from appropriate standards of care which originated from the peer review committee.  Therefore minutes of the meeting were privileged but the names of the physicians attending were not.  The peer review privilege did not extend to physician rudeness, only to med mal problems. 

Vesom v Atchison Hosp.
D. Kansas

 Dr. Vesom had his privileges terminated.  He sued and under discovery wanted the communications between the hospital and their attorney.  Of course he didn't get them as all communications are protected and that protection was not removed by HCQIA.    Top


Florida Hematology v Tummala
Fla. Ct. App.

Dr. Tummala worked for Florida Hematology and his contract had a restrictive covenant that stated for two years he could not practice within fifteen miles of any office.  Dr. Tummala opened a competing office immediately within the fifteen miles.  The Florida restrictive covenant states that the covenant is unenforceable unless it is for a legitimate business interest.  It defines the patients as specific prospective or existing patients with whom the party has a substantial relationship.  The court stated the practice could not prove any problem with exclusive contracts or future referrals since that is too nebulous.  

California v Takasugi

California officials searched the home of Dr. Scott Takasugi of Carmichael, a plastic surgeon at Kaiser.  The same day the doctor of 14 years at Kaiser was fired by the Permanente Medical Group. The physician has been charged with multiple gun charges and sexually assaulting and exploiting patients.  His attorney stats that all his weapons are harmless and registered.  The physician is a gun collector.  Dr. Takasugi is out on $1 million bail.  The Medical Board of California has suspended his license on the sex charges.  The doctor has been accused of photographing the vagina of two patients, one who came in for a breast reduction and one who had a skin lesion removed from her clavicle.  There were 40 complaints against him at Kaiser, some for the sexual and some for rudeness.  The local sheriff's office had at least 15 complaints about the physician dating back 10 years. Of course, there is an ambulance chaser right in front.  A civil law suit has been filed against the physician and Kaiser for negligent supervision of a physician and failure to protect and warn its patients.    

Once the first case was filed, the vultures came out of the woodwork.  There are now multiple cases filed as well as a class action.  Kaiser also stated that the physician resigned "in lieu of termination for a medical disciplinary cause or reason."  This is a reportable resignation to the Data Bank, if Kaiser does it.  They usually don't report by using a loophole in the law in med mal cases.  Kaiser is now stating that they gave the physician progressive discipline for his bedside manner.  He was placed on a week unpaid suspension in December 2005 and was given coaching on patient treatment.  He was warned that any further complaints would lead to termination.  The above sexual complaints were the straw.  Kaiser also states they have a policy that has a chaperone in a room when a male physician exams a female patient.

McCalla V SUNY

A Black physician sued the hospital for discrimination as well as state law claims.  The state law claims were dismissed but the discrimination claim stood and will go to trial. 

Bachir v St. Agnus
ED Cal

Dr. Bachir was given provisional privileges at two hospitals but was denied staff privileges.  He claimed it was due to his Syrian heritage.  He lost and the attorney should have known better.  He was an independent contractor and not an employee seeking employment.  An independent contractor cannot sue for employment discrimination.       Top


Patients v University of Alabama, Birmingham
To Be Filed

Long live those who favor EMRs.  They will be a continuing source of fodder for this rag and for the courts.  A computer with almost 10,000 names and information was stolen from the University.  The University has offered one year of free credit monitoring for all whose names were on the computer.         Top 


Alabama v Scrushy

Alabama did what a federal court could not, get a guilty verdict against HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy.  He was tried and found guilty of bribery by paying a half million dollars to former Governor Siegelman for a seat on a state health board. He could go to jail for 10 years.        Top 


US v Tenet

Tenet and the government have settled all remaining charges for the grand total of $900 million.  Tenet agreed to pay a bargain $725 million over four years and the right to go after $125 million in Medicare payments for past services.  Most thought the fine would be over $1 billion.  Tenet still in litigation with the SEC regarding its disclosures.  They plan to sell off a bunch more hospitals to raise the money and to put in IT systems.

Oregon v Providence Health

The judge found Providence's charity care and financial assistance was fair and reasonable.  Then the judge gave approval to a settlement in a class action suit regarding Providence's charity care practices for past visits.  The refunds will total about $200,000 and go to 250 people.        Top


DISCLAIMER: Although this article is updated periodically, it reflects the author's point of view at the time of publication. Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice. Readers should consult with their own legal counsel before acting on any of the information presented.