CHARLESTON -- A Charleston attorney and physician isn't mincing words about a fellow lawyer with whom he had a working relationship.
Dr. Richard Lindsay called William Druckman's lawsuit filed in Putnam Circuit Court against 25 former clients who chose to drop him from their cases against Putnam General Hospital and Dr. John King "nuts" and "unprecedented."
"This is nuts," Lindsay said Wednesday. "Druckman had no written contract with these clients. I did. Also, there is no precedent for an attorney in a contingency case – even with a contract – to recover expenses prior to the completion of a lawsuit favorably."
In his lawsuit filed Aug. 7, 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.
Lindsay also was quick to note that Druckman already has sued him.
"We can fight it out, and that's OK," Lindsay said of his firm's dispute with Druckman. "But how you can bring the clients into this … I think every consumer would want to know that a lawyer is going to hold them accountable for expenses like this.
"Now, someone who is supposed to be working on their behalf is suing them. If it wasn't so despicable, it would be laughable.
"You can't pick on clients like this. It just doesn't make any sense."
In 2004, Druckman was awarded $833,333.33 for serving as a special assistant attorney general in the Purdue Pharma case. Lindsay and wife Pamela Tabor Lindsay -- a nurse and lawyer -- 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 agreed in 1997 to share clients in medical malpractice cases. Together they paid for newspaper and television advertisements featuring the Lindsays and Druckman.
"They (the clients Druckman has sued) never would've entered into an agreement with an attorney if they thought they had to pay like this," Lindsay said. "Bill never met these people. He never met 22 of the parties. It's just a way to punish the clients who were under my contract who decided to stay with me."
Druckman only worked on the King cases through his partnership with Lindsay, who said he doesn't dispute that Druckman is owed money for expenses.
"There is no law in West Virginia or in the United States that says an attorney with a contract is entitled to expenses before the end of the case," Lindsay said. "There is no case law that awards attorneys expenses prior to the end of a lawsuit.
"This is unprecedented. Case law allows attorney to get money for time they put into the case. They've already agreed they won't try to recover that until the end.
"I think this gives the entire legal profession a black eye, and it brings down the reputation of every contingency fee lawyer.
"And again, it's not like he doesn't have another avenue to collect it. He's sued me."
When the clients in question were notified that the Lindsays and Druckman would not be working on their cases anymore, Lindsay said all of them chose to stay with his firm.
"They said, 'We came to you,'" Lindsay said. "'You're the doctor/lawyer. We don't even know who Druckman is."
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, Charleston Area Medical Center announced plans this week to buy Putnam General and keep the hospital open.
In July, Putnam Circuit Judge O.C. "Hobby" Spaulding ruled that an attorney-client relationship did exist between the plaintiffs and Druckman and that Druckman should be paid for his expenses on the cases. Lindsay called Spaulding's decision "outrageous" and said he plans to appeal.
Lindsay also said the 25 clients plan to sue Druckman under West Virginia's Consumer Protection Act.
"I think every consumer would want to know that a lawyer is going to hold them accountable for expenses before a verdict is reached," Lindsay said.
Lindsay also said that before Druckman turned in his list of expenses in these 25 cases to the court, two plane tickets were on two separate clients' billing records.
Lindsay stressed that Druckman did take those off before submitting the expenses to the judge, but said he doubted it was a simple clerical error by Druckman's office.
"There has been no plane travel in this case," Lindsay said.
Putnam Circuit Court case number: 06-C-259