A dozen more suits filed against groping doctor

By Chris Dickerson | Aug 25, 2014

CHARLESTON – A dozen more lawsuits have been filed against a doctor named in a string of sexual harassment lawsuits over the last few years.

The latest lawsuits – all filed in Kanawha Circuit Court – name Dr. John H. Pellegrini, Hope Clinic PLLC, The ERx Group and PmP Services Inc. as defendants. A few of the complaints also list PPPDF Inc. as a defendant, and one of them also lists the West Virginia Board of Osteopathic Medicine as a defendant.

The complaints -- filed as recently as last week – allege Pellegrini sexually harassed, sexually assaulted and battered the plaintiffs while working at Hope Clinic in Beckley.

Some of the plaintiffs are named, while others use only their initials in the filings.

One plaintiff – Julie Ann Lester – claims Pellegrini rubbed her “butt and legs” and massaged her hip before putting “his hands down (her) sweat pants.”

“Furthermore during such appointment … Pellegini’s penis became erect and he rubbed his erect penis along (her) body,” the complaint states. “(Plaintiff) was shocked, uncomfortable, and she left the clinic upset.”

In another case, plaintiff M.S. says Pellegrini’s treatment regimen for her neck sprain and chronic back pain included opioid medication including Oxycodone.

Pellegrini “systematically increased the dosage within a couple of months to levels that caused physical and psychological dependence on the opioid medication,” her complaint alleges, saying she now suffers from an opioid use disorder.

Also, she says “became vulnerable to the ‘grooming’ by Dr. Pellegrini” and suffers from posttraumatic stress.

It describes this “grooming” as when “a sexual predator engages in incremental and inappropriate contact for purposes of sexual gratification.”

One complaint, filed by Jerra R. Shuff as the administrator of the estate of Kathy L. Rader, 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 plaintiffs blame the remaining defendants for contributing to their injuries, saying the defendants breached their duty by failing to properly supervise Pellegrini, giving him the opportunity to attack and sexually assault her.

Pellegrini 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,” one of the earlier complaints against Pellegrini 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 …,” a previous 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. 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.

A 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.

A complaint filed in June claims the state violated laws by allowing him to continue to hold his medical license. That suit 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.”

In the latest suits, the plaintiffs are seeking a judgement of permanent injunction ordering Pellegrini to cease from engaging in unlawful conduct. They also seek compensatory damages, punitive damages, pre- and post-judgment interest and other relief the court deems just, plus court costs.

The various attorneys representing the latest plaintiffs in these cases are William M. Tiano, Kevin P. Davis, Kyle G. Lusk, Matthew A. Bradford, Robert H. Miller II, Shawn R. Romano, Miles B. Berger, Scott Segal, Victor Woods and Gregory Sproles.

Kanawha Circuit Court case numbers 14-C-1280, 14-C-1281, 14-C-1319, 14-C-1346, 14-C-1347, 14-C-1361, 14-C-1384, 14-C-1385, 14-C-1450, 14-C-1451, 14-C-1452, 14-C-1453.

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