Damned if you do, damned if you don’t files: Putnam Hospital

Osteopath John King (who now calls himself “Christopher Wallace Martin” in his Alabama practice after surrendering his West Virginia and Texas medical licenses) had a poor record in numerous previous jobs in numerous states, but West Virginia’s Putnam County Hospital, the only acute-care center in the county, wasn’t able to find that out because the former employers were afraid of being sued. King lasted a few months at Putnam before he was dismissed for incompetence after an investigation, and King responded by suing Putnam and the independent expert who testified against him at a private peer review (as well as the newspaper that reported on his problems). Meanwhile, trial lawyers engaged in a feeding frenzy, filing dozens of lawsuits for tens of millions of dollars against the deep pocket (and some against each other), creating enough adverse publicity that Putnam lost nearly half of its business, and was on the verge of shutting down tomorrow before a last-minute deal to save the hospital was negotiated. Martha Montelongo has an overview in the August 17 Human Events Online. (Lawrence Messina, AP/Charleston Daily Mail, Aug. 28; Chris Dickerson, “Druckman sues former clients over work on King cases”, West Virginia Record, Aug. 8; Lawrence Messina, “W. Va. Hospital Says Lawsuits Drive Conversion to Urgent Care Center”, AP/insurance Journal, Aug. 7; Chris Dickerson, “Putnam General blames impending closure on trial lawyers”, West Virginia Record, Aug. 1).


  • The medical profession isn’t the only place where this happens. I used to be an aircraft mechanic for one of the major airlines, several years ago. Twice a month, after finishing our shift, we would go to a breakfast meeting. This meeting was attended by all of the mechanics from all of the airlines at that airport who worked the same shift. Several people from the airport and the FAA also attended. The purpose of this meeting was to share information on maintenance and airport safety issues. The FAA rep always took notes, compiled them from all of the shifts and a couple days later a copy was in your mailbox. I know of several problems and possible accidents that were prevented because of the information shared at these meetings. These meetings were suddenly stopped after company management found out that trial lawyers could obtain the minutes of them, from the FAA, through the Freedom of Information Act and use them against the airline in court.

  • Trial lawyers: enriching themselves one non-lawyer fatality at a time. Well, or sometimes several at a time. Either is acceptable (to THEM).

  • I thought Jim Collins’s comment was interesting enough to deserve its own thread, which I opened here.