Putnam General negligent in hiring King, jury rules

WINFIELD -- Putnam General Hospital was negligent in hiring a doctor who ended up being named in more than medical malpractice suits.

The Putnam County jury's ruling Tuesday means that Putnam General will be a co-defendant in the 122 cases against Dr. John King.

King has been named a defendant by dozens of former patients or surviving family members for his six months at Putnam General in 2002 and 2003. Those med mal cases allege King did shoddy and sometimes unnecessary surgeries.

The jury deliberated for about an hour Tuesday before returning its verdict, saying the hospital didn't properly screen King before hiring him as an orthopedic surgeon in October 2002. The jury also ruled that the plaintiffs in the med mal cases can seek punitive damages from the hospital.

King also did not practice full disclosure when he applied at Putnam General. He didn't mention all pending malpractice allegations against him at the time, and he didn't mention a 1999 arrest concerning the removal of log books from a Florida medical facility.

After Putnam General suspended him in May 2003, King gave up his West Virginia license. He since has changed his name to Christopher Wallace Martin and now reportedly lives in Alabama. He did not testify in the trial, but a videotaped deposition of him was used

Hospital Corporation of America Inc. owned Putnam General when King worked there. But last August, HCA announced it planned to close the hospital, citing the legal climate of doing business – including the King malpractice cases. But Charleston Area Medical Center bought the facility and avoided closing Putnam County's only hospital.

Circuit Judge O.C. "Hobby" Spaulding heard this case.

The first malpractice case is set for trial in November.

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