Judge in West Virginia Approves Settlements of 3 King Lawsuits

May 8, 2008

A circuit judge has approved settlements totaling $2.4 million of three malpractice lawsuits that accused a former West Virginia doctor of harming patients.

Lawyers for Putnam General Hospital and the hospital’s former owner, Nashville, Tenn.-based Hospital Corporation of America Inc., had reached the settlements with the estates of three of Dr. John A. King’s patients. King remains a defendant in the lawsuits.

The settlements approved May 6 by Putnam County Circuit Court Judge O.C. Spaulding stemmed from the first three of 124 lawsuits involving King.

King practiced at Putnam General from November 2002 to June 2003. The lawsuits allege King, an osteopath, botched surgeries or otherwise harmed patients during his six-month stint at the hospital.

The hospital suspended his privileges in May 2004, after a review of his work. He later surrendered his West Virginia medical license and left the state.

HCA sold the hospital, now called CAMC Teays Valley Hospital, to Charleston Area Medical Center in 2006.

At the May 6 hearing, Spaulding rejected a request from lawyers representing all sides to not reveal the settlements’ amounts. He said any settlements of cases involving King would be made public.

“I have never experienced anything like these 124 cases in my 15 years on the bench,” Spaulding said. “These cases have generated a tremendous amount of publicity, both in West Virginia and nationally.”

“These are not run-of-the-mill lawsuits, like little car accidents. They have taken on national interest and (aroused) national curiosity,” Spaulding said. “The public has a right to know, were these legitimate cases?”

The estate of Cora Linville will receive about $1 million, while the estate of John Higgenbotham will receive $923,585. The estate of Leatha Johnson will receive $423,585.

Linville died three years after multiple infections resulting from back surgery. Higgenbotham never regained consciousness after a spinal operation. Johnson died less than three months after surgery to repair fractures and counter infections.

Spaulding scheduled a May 22 hearing to consider proposed settlements of nine other lawsuits involving King.

Records show King has been licensed in more than a dozen states but has surrendered, lost his license or had his license suspended in at least six. He let his license expire in two other states.

King has filed a lawsuit of his own, seeking $10 million from the state Board of Osteopathy. King claims in the lawsuit that the board illegally damaged his reputation by revoking his license, which he says led to suspensions or revocations in other states.

Information from: The Charleston Gazette,

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