New lawsuit against groping doctor also names Board of Osteopathic Medicine

By Chris Dickerson | Jul 15, 2014

CHARLESTON – A new lawsuit against a physician who has been sued repeatedly for sexual contact with patients also claims the state violated laws by allowing him to continue to hold his medical license.

CHARLESTON – A new lawsuit against a physician who has been sued repeatedly for sexual contact with patients also claims the state violated laws by allowing him to continue to hold his medical license.

Misty D. Skinner filed her lawsuit May 29 in Kanawha Circuit Court against Dr. John Henry Pellegrini, Hope Clinic PLLC, The ERx Group LLC, PmP Services Inc. and the West Virginia Board of Osteopathic Medicine.

Skinner says she sought treatment at Hope Clinic’s Beckley facility for pain management and was seen by Pellegini three times in the summer and fall of 2012.

“On two of the occasions that plaintiff was seen by defendant Pellegrini, he touched her buttocks and breasts and otherwise made sexual advances toward her,” the complaint states. “The physical contact made by defendant Pellegrini was not necessary or related to any medical treatment being provided to plaintiff.”

The complaint states that Pellegrini was fired from Hope Clinic in late October 2012 after he was observed touching another patient. The WVBOM suspended his license on Dec. 12, 2012.

The complaint also details Pellegrini’s history.

He received a doctorate in osteopathic medicine from the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in 1990, and he was licensed to practice in Ohio starting in 1991.

In 1997, the State Medical Board of Ohio gave notice to Pellegrini of an intent to take disciplinary action based on allegations that he had sexual contact with four patients.

“Following hearings conducted in June 1997, it was determined that defendant Pellegrini’s accusers were not credible witnesses, and the allegations against him were dismissed by an order entered on October 9, 1997,” the complaint states.

Pellegrini was licensed by the WVBOM to practice in West Virginia beginning on Nov. 10, 1997. In April 2000, he voluntarily retired or surrendered his Ohio certificate, saying he would not apply for reinstatement there.

“No action was taken by the WVBOM to revoke or otherwise refuse to renew defendant Pellegrini’s license after he surrendered his license in Ohio, notwithstanding the requirements of West Virginia Code …,” the complaint states.

In 2010, the civil complaints against Pellegrini began. Those include one filed in Wayne County on behalf of 20 women incarcerated at Lakin Correctional Center.

It also notes that Pellegrini was arrested in Raleigh County in 2011 on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Since 2010, dozens of lawsuits have been filed against Pellegrini involving claims that he sexually abused and harassed patients.

In November 2012, the West Virginia Board of Osteopathic Medicine suspended Pellegrini’s license.

In 2001, Pellegrini was the subject of a medical malpractice lawsuit filed in federal court. The lawsuit stemmed from allegations that Pellegrini negligently performed a hysterectomy on the plaintiff.

In July 2010, 20 women filed lawsuits in Wayne County alleging that Pellegrini sexually abused and harassed them while he worked as a physician at the Lakin Correction Center. In 2011, another suit was filed against Pellegrini. And in 2013, another was filed against him.

The 2012 WVBOM order found probable cause to believe that Pellegrini engaged in unprofessional and unethical conduct. The Board also issued a Statement of Charges that alleged Pellegrini committed repeated acts of an unethical exercise of influence within a doctor-patient relationship for the purpose of engaging a patient in sexual activity.

The Board also found that Pellegrini was likely to continue his practices of unethical and inappropriate behavior unless it took immediate action. The Board then suspended Pellegrini’s medical license based on a finding that Pellegrini’s continued practice of medicine and surgery would constitute an immediate danger to the public.

In 2013, at least one lawsuit was filed against Pellegrini, Hope Clinic and other entities involving allegations that Pellegrini sexually abused, sexual harassed his patients and subjected them to other inappropriate conduct. Other suits have been filed earlier this year in Raleigh Circuit Court and Kanawha Circuit Court.

In her complaint, Skinner accuses Pellegrini and his employer defendants of assault and battery by his conduct of making unwanted sexual contact, sexual assault and sexual abuse that were done intentionally by Pellegrini. She also accuses them of intentional infliction of emotional distress/outrage, and she accuses the defendant employers of negligent hiring and retention of Pellegrini.

She also accuses the WVBOM of negligence and violation of state code, claiming it should have known his license to practice was voluntarily retired or surrendered in Ohio in 2000.

“The WVBOM is prohibited from issuing, renewing or reactivating the license of an osteopathic whose license has been revoked or surrendered in another state until such time as that physician becomes eligible for licensure in the state where the action was taken,” the complaint states. “WVBOM was negligent in that it breached its duty to plaintiff by failing to revoke and/or refuse to renew defendant Pellegrini’s license to practice osteopathic medicine after his license was surrendered in the state of Ohio.”

The complaint also claims the WVBOM knew or should have known about the lawsuits filed against Pellegrini in 2010 and 2011 and “took no action to protect the public generally and plaintiff specifically from defendant Pellegrini.”

Skinner claims she has sustained past, present and future injury, pain and suffering, serious psychological and emotional distress, embarrassment and humiliation.

She seeks compensatory damages for past and future medical bills related to the diagnostic and preventative treatment and therapies and for treatment of past and future injuries, emotional distress, mental pain and suffering, fear, humiliation, embarrassment, annoyance, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life. She also seeks punitive damages, civil penalties, attorney fees, court costs, pre- and post-judgment interest and other relief.

Skinner is being represented by Scott S. Segal and Victor S. Woods of The Segal Law Firm in Charleston as well as Gregory W. Sproles of Summersville. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 14-C-999

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