$366 million dollar jury award reduced. Jurors originally found that hospital, competing cardiologists conspired to remove competitor
DALLAS – LAWFUEL – Legal News Network – United States District Judge for the Northern District of Texas, Jorge A. Solis, has ruled against Presbyterian Hospital and three cardiologists who sought a new trial to reverse a $366 million jury verdict levied against them.
In ruling in favor of Dallas cardiologist, Dr. Lawrence R. Poliner, Judge Solis, reduced the overall damage award to $22.54 million. According to Judge Solis’ September 18th opinion, jurors had awarded multiple damages for essentially the same claim. In addition, Judge Solis found that the jury’s original $132 million mental anguish award and $110 million punitive damage award were “excessive.” The judge however, rejected an appeal by defendants seeking to reduce the overall damage award to less than $1 million.
“We’re thrilled,” says attorney Mike Lynn who represented Dr. Poliner against Presbyterian Hospital’s appeal of the jury verdict. “We believe that $22.54 million is a substantial damage award to compensate a victim of defamation from a conservative and thoughtful Court. We expected the reduced award, but feel that it was critical that the jury verdict vindicate Dr. Poliner and through him the other doctors who have been abused by baseless peer reviews.”
The August 27, 2004 verdict sent shock waves throughout the nation’s hospital and medical community. For the first time, hospitals were confronted with ensuring that medical peer-review hearings were conducted in good faith and absent indications of conflict-of-interest or anti-competitive behavior.
“This decision will change hospital behavior and make the system fairer to doctors and better for patients,” says Mr. Lynn.
Jurors originally awarded Dr. Poliner $161 million against Presbyterian Hospital; $141 million against Dr. James Knochel, Presbyterian’s internal medicine chairman; and $32 million each against Dr. John Harper, chief of cardiology, and Dr. Charles Levin, head of the cardiac catheterization lab.
Dr. Poliner specializes in interventional cardiology, invasive cardiology, nuclear cardiology, and echocardiography. He has a widespread reputation that attracts out-of-state patients. In May 1997, after almost 30 years as a physician, Dr. Poliner opened an office in the professional building at Presbyterian. According to Dr. Poliner’s lawsuit, when he began to draw patients away from other cardiologists at Presbyterian, unfounded concerns surfaced about Dr. Poliner’s clinical skills and judgment , all in an effort to have Dr. Poliner removed from the staff.
In early 1998, Dr. Poliner’s competitors began raising “concerns” about some of Dr. Poliner’s cases, ultimately resulting in a suspension of his cardiac catheterization privileges—effectively denying him the ability to treat his patients or attract new ones, the lawsuit claims. The peer review committee charged with considering the complaints against Dr. Poliner consisted primarily of his competitors.
Later that year, the hospital’s medical board voted to restore Dr. Poliner’s privileges after several nationally known cardiology experts testified that Dr. Poliner’s care of his patients met or exceeded the standard of care, and that his suspension was unwarranted. Despite the return of privileges, the board upheld the original suspension “based on the evidence available to him [Dr. Knochel] at the time.”
“Judge Solis has ratified jurors’ very strong feelings that their verdict should send a very strong message to Presbyterian and other hospitals that this type of conduct should stop,” says Mr. Lynn.
“This has been a long and difficult process for Dr. Poliner,” says original lead trial counsel Charla Aldous. “Not many people would have had his determination and resolve. Hopefully, the jury and court’s decision will have a positive impact on the peer review process throughout the country.”
Members of the appellate team that opposed Presbyterians motion for a new trial include Mike Lynn, founding partner at Dallas’ Lynn Tillotson & Pinker, Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Deborah Hankinson, now of The Law Offices of Deborah Hankinson PC, original trial attorneys Charla Aldous of Dallas’ Baron and Budd and Michael Logan and Karin Zaner of Dallas-based Kane Russell Coleman & Logan.
For a copy of Judge Solis’ ruling in Poliner v. Texas Health Systems or to learn more about this case, please contact Mike Androvett at 800-559-4534 or [email protected]