WINFIELD – A Charleston attorney has filed his own lawsuit against 25 of his former clients in the numerous lawsuits against former Putnam General Hospital surgeon John King.
William S. Druckman claims the 25 parties – some individuals and some couples – owe him a total of nearly $76,000 for "litigation-related costs and expenses" he incurred while he still was a counsel of record in their cases against Putnam General and King.
Druckman filed his complaint Aug. 7 in Putnam Circuit Court.
In August 2005, each of the defendants began to try to discharge Druckman from their cases. By February, the defendants and their attorneys had agreed to various orders approving Druckman's discharge from their cases.
In explaining his relationship with the defendants, Druckman says he and the defendants "did not enter into written contracts addressing the terms and conditions of their attorney-client relationship and Druckman's representation of the defendants."
In the complaint, filed by Huntington attorney Michael J. Farrell, Druckman say the relationships between he and the defendants are evident with various facts, including that he and his staff had direct and indirect contact and communications with the defendants, participated in the investigation and development of their claims against King and appeared as counsel of record.
More than 100 patients have filed lawsuits against King and Putnam General since 2004. King was an orthopedic surgeon who practiced at Putnam General from November 2002 until June 2003.
Just last week, officials with HCA, Putnam General's parent company, announced plans to turn the hospital into an urgent care facility by the end of the month, blaming personal injury trial attorneys and the King lawsuits as a key factor in that decision.
However, on Monday, Charleston Area Medical Center announced plans to buy Putnam General and keep the hospital open.
From when the various King suits were filed in 2004 and early 2005, Druckman says the defendants accepted his legal services until August 2005. That is when, the complaint states, "each defendant manifested a desire to terminate his or her representation by Druckman by signing unverified discharge letters or notices, which were thereafter delivered to Druckman."
Druckman says the orders approving his discharge from the cases expressly stipulate that Druckman, attorney Madonna C. Estep and the Law Offices of William S. Druckman are without fault, thus entitling him to recover "the reasonable value of services rendered and reasonable costs and expenses incurred on (defendants) behalf as contemplated under West Virginia law."
Those orders were entered Feb. 21.
Druckman says each termination was "knowing, intelligent and voluntary." He goes on to say each of the defendant's terminations of their relationship with Druckman "was induced in whole or in part by other persons and/or entities."
Then, Druckman lists other attorneys with whom the defendants have relationships. That list includes Richard D. Lindsay, Pamela Tabor Lindsay and the law firm of Tabor Lindsay & Associates; Dante DiTrapano, Rudolph DiTrapano and the law firm of DiTrapano, Barrett & DiPiero; Cale Conley and the law firm of Conley Griggs; and Larry A. Winter, David D. Johnson III and the law firm of Winter, Johnson & Hill.
Druckman also says he has requested that each defendant reimburse him for the costs and expenses, and that the defendants have declined and resisted those requests. That, Druckman says, is notwithstanding a July 17 Putnam Circuit Court order signed by Judge O.C. "Hobby" Spaudling recognizing Druckman's right to recover from each defendant. A hearing on that order is scheduled for Sept. 8
"Multiple defendants have authorized their counsel (Tabor Lindsay & Associates) to threaten the assertion of an alleged cause of action against Druckman purportedly based on the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act … apparently as a result of and/or in retaliation for Druckman's judicially-recognized request for reimbursement and compensation."
As a result of the conduct of the defendants and their attorneys, Druckman says he has sustained injuries and damages.
He also denies that the Consumer Credit and Protection Act is applicable to the prior attorney-client relationship between he and the defendants or to his effort to invoke his request for compensation. He also denies that the defendants have standing to assert such a claim. Druckman says that if he was subjected to such an invalid claim, he would sustain irreparable harm, both financially and professionally.
Druckman seeks compensatory damages for his services rendered; an order declaring and re-establishing his rights, status and other legal relations and to the validity of his request for compensation; an order declaring the Consumer Credit and Protection Act is inapplicable in this case; and an order enjoining the defendants from asserting such a claim against Druckman.
He also seeks reasonable attorney fees, court costs and expenses, pre- and post-judgment interest and other general damages.
Druckman requests a jury trial.
When reached for comment Tuesday, Druckman referred calls to Farrell, who declined comment.
This isn't he first time Druckman and the Lindsays have been involved in a legal dispute over legal matters.
In 2004, Druckman was awarded $833,333.33 for serving as a special assistant attorney general in the Purdue Pharma case. Lindsay and Tabor Lindsay worked with Druckman for eight years under an unwritten agreement and demanded half of his fee but did not get it.
In response, Druckman sued the Lindsays in September 2005 in Kanawha Circuit Court, charging extortion, fraud, conversion and breach of contract. Druckman and the Lindsays – Richard also is a doctor, and Tabor Lindsay is a nurse – agreed in 1997 to share clients in medical malpractice cases. Together they paid for newspaper and television advertisements featuring the Lindsays and Druckman.
In 2001, state Attorney General Darrell McGraw sued drug manufacturer Purdue Pharma in McDowell County, claiming the state incurred improper expenses connected to abuse of the painkiller OxyContin. McGraw later deputized Druckman and attorneys in three other law firms as special assistant attorney generals in the case.
As a trial approached in 2004, McGraw and Purdue Pharma settled the case. The company agreed to pay $10 million. McDowell County Circuit Judge Booker Stevens signed an order awarding a third of the payment to McGraw's special assistants. Stevens ordered the attorneys to divide it equally four ways.
The Lindsays have stated in court pleadings that Druckman paid them an amount less than half of his share. They have stated that they demanded half but did not get it.
"The case was not subject to their joint venture agreement," Farrell wrote. "Notwithstanding their lack of involvement in the case, R. D. Lindsay and P. T. Lindsay demanded payment of one half of the fees."
Farrell wrote that the Lindsays threatened to retaliate, and that the discharge of Druckman from joint cases fulfilled the threat. The Lindsays answered -- through attorney Larry Winter -- that clients "elected on their own and of their own free will and volition" to discharge Druckman.
Winter also wrote that the Purdue Pharma case was subject to the understanding and relationship between Druckman and the Lindsays. He filed a counterclaim asking for judgment requiring Druckman to disgorge all sums by which he was "unjustly and unjustifiably enriched" at the expense of the Lindsays.
A status conference hearing on the Lindsay-Druckman dispute is scheduled for mid-September before Judge Nibert, who has been assigned to the case.
The defendants in Druckman's Aug. 7 case are Henry and Carmella Adkins; Calvin and Drema Armstead; William and Brenda Bowen; Arthur and Gina Browning; Wayne and Renee Crozier; Pamela Erwin; Everett Gibson; Billie and Carol Sue Hodges; Kimberly and Michael Hoffman; Deborah Johnson; Carley Kimble; Charles and Terri Lavender; Jason Lett; Sandra and Kenneth Lowe; Harold Mayfield; Cindy McCormick-Williams, individually and as next friend of Morgan McCormick; Helen McLemore; Jonathan and Teresa Nemeth; Matthew Null; Julia Shoffner; Anna Lee Smith; Kenneth Smith; Robin and Douglas Wageman; Melissa Walker; and Gary and Katrina Wilfong.
Putnam Circuit Court case number: 06-C-259