Bankruptcy Won’t Help West Virginia Doctor Avoid Malpractice Payments

March 10, 2009

A former West Virginia doctor will not be able to use his Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing in Birmingham to block payments in scores of malpractice cases after a federal bankruptcy judge ruled he was hiding assets.

The order opens up the former osteopathic surgeon, John A. King, to potential judgments against him in more than 120 malpractice lawsuits in West Virginia and two in Alabama.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Thomas Bennett ruled that King misled the court and his creditors by filing bankruptcy papers with major omissions, including at least $670,000 in income he received within the period covered by the bankruptcy.

King filed for bankruptcy at the end of 2007, saying he had no income and his only asset was a 1993 Volvo worth $500.

Court proceedings revealed King deposited paychecks into his mother’s bank account and had hundreds of thousands of dollars flowing through a trust that his sister mostly controlled on his behalf.

The Birmingham native said he lives in his mother’s house off her teacher’s pension and testified that he personally had not owned real estate or had a checking account in years. He said most of his finances are taken care off by his mother or sister.

Bennett said he did not believe much of King’s testimony.

“It occurs to me that you’ve structured your affairs so that your creditors would have great difficulty in reaching into your income as a doctor,” he said.

The bankruptcy ruling is the latest in a long string of problems for King, who worked as an orthopedic surgeon in West Virginia from November 2002 to June 2003. More than 120 malpractice cases were generated against him during that time.

He worked briefly for American Family Care in Irondale in the fall of 2006, resulting in two malpractice cases. Those lawsuits in Jefferson County contend King inflicted great pain on one patient and overdosed another, who went into a coma and suffered stroke-like symptoms for months afterward.

King acknowledged that a ruling against him could put the malpractice cases back into play. “It’s going to create massive turmoil,” King said.

Hospital Corporation of America, the company that owned Putnam General Hospital, where King operated in West Virginia, has settled its portion of the claims in the King cases for about $100 million, according to reports.

The two Jefferson County cases against American Family Care are scheduled for trial later this year.

King lost his license to practice medicine in Alabama last fall. He changed his name to Christopher Wallace Martin in 2006 but later restored his birth name and filed for bankruptcy as King.


Information from: The Birmingham News,

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