A Washington hospital and a malpractice insurer have successfully sued a Louisiana hospital and two doctors who wrote glowing letters of recommendation for a colleague without disclosing his drug problem.
The jury award of more than $4 million for fraud and negligent misrepresentation marks the first time one hospital has successfully sued another for failing to disclose adverse information about a doctor being considered for privileges to practice there, liability experts said.
The case was brought by Seattle-based Western Professional Insurance and Kadlec Medical Center, the Richland hospital that later hired Dr. Robert Lee Berry, unaware of his history.
In 2002, one of Berry’s patients, Kim Jones of Richland, then a 31-year-old mother of three, sustained severe brain damage during a routine procedure. Jones is in a nursing home in Michigan unable to care for herself.
Two years later, Berry, an anesthesiologist, and Kadlec agreed to an $8.5 million settlement in a lawsuit brought by Jones’ family.
During that lawsuit, Jones’ family learned that Berry had been diverting the narcotic painkiller Demerol from his patients. They also learned he had been asked to leave the Louisiana hospital and his practice for being impaired on the job ”” a fact neither had disclosed to Kadlec.
“Had we known, we wouldn’t have hired him,” Kadlec spokesman Jim Hall said.
Ron Perey, Jones’ lawyer, said “a case like this has never been won before.” He predicted it would bring about positive changes in “honesty in the medical industry.”
Well, it’s certainly a change – here’s hoping it’s a positive one.