Judge Orders W. Va. Malpractice Claims to Proceed Amid Bankruptcy

December 27, 2007

Eight lawsuits alleging medical malpractice by a former West Virginia doctor can continue toward trial while he settles his debts in bankruptcy court, a judge has ordered.

Dr. John A. King consented to the rulings issued Wednesday by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Thomas B. Bennett, which lift the stays normally applied to civil lawsuits targeting bankrupt defendants.

The eight are the first of 124 malpractice claims against King slated for trial. Each alleges the 49-year-old osteopath botched surgeries or otherwise harmed patients during his six months at the former Putnam General Hospital.

Now living in Alabama, King filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 last month, meaning his debts could be eliminated. He listed a 1993 Volvo worth $500 and some pending claims as his sole assets, and more than $125,000 in debts.

He and his co-defendants, the hospital’s then-owners and a former assistant, now want all 124 cases heard by the federal court in Charleston.

The lawsuits had been filed in Putnam County Circuit Court but the defendants argue that the pending bankruptcy justifies the transfer. Lawyers for the plaintiffs plan to petition to keep the cases in circuit court.

Putnam General hired King in November 2002 and suspended his privileges the following May after a review of his work. He later surrendered his West Virginia medical license and left the state.

King recently restored his birth name after changing it to Christopher Wallace Martin last year.

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