POINT PLEASANT -– Court records show five previous malpractice suits against a Point Pleasant doctor now residing in Illinois, including one that is under seal.

In December, Ralph Barcus filed suit against Dr. Jack Levine. In his suit, Barcus, of Gallipolis, Ohio, alleges Levine committed malpractice by leaving the remnants of a catheter in his chest.

According to court records, Levine first inserted the catheter into Barcus on Nov. 22, 1999. Levine later removed it on May 23, 2001.

However, Barcus alleges he experienced pain in his chest near the area of the catheter. Court records show Barcus consulted with two physicians who determined the pain was a result of a small piece of the catheter remaining inside of Barcus.

Barcus' suit is not the first time a malpractice case has been brought against Levine while he lived in West Virginia. Court records show Levine, who now practices medicine in Shelbyville, Ill., was sued on five occasions between 1994 and 2001.

Out-of-court settlement

Lila Leport first sued Levine on March 15, 1994. Records show Leport brought the suit as the administrix of her daughter Cheryl's estate.

In her suit filed with her attorney Gerald R. Lacy, Leport alleged Levine "negligently and carelessly failed to diagnose and treat medical complaints and illnesses, perform surgery and other emergency measures necessitated by the condition and failed to render proper medical care treatment and attention." Though records are not exactly clear, Leport alleges her daughter died as a result of Levine's care during her stay at Pleasant Valley Hospital from June 30 to July 11, 1992.

PVH was named as a co-defendant. Later on June 29, 1994, Dr. Maltendrakumar C. Shah was included as a co-defendant.
In their reply, Levine and PVH through their attorneys Barry M. Taylor and Sprague Hazard said that "decedent contributed to her own injuries and, therefore, plaintiff's claims are barred or reduced by the doctrines of comparative and contributory negligence."

Records show PVH was dismissed from the suit on Feb. 21, 1995. Shah, who was represented by William L. Mundy, was also dismissed from the suit on May 11, 1995 in exchange for him agreeing not to pursue a suit against Leport.

The case against Levine was also dismissed on May 11 when, records show, Leport reached an out-of-court settlement with him.

About the time he reached a settlement with Leport, Lucy Ann Thompson alleged she was a victim of malpractice on Levine's behalf.

In a suit brought on Dec. 18, 1996, Thompson and her husband, Lawrence, allege a March 15, 1995 Levine performed a bowel reanastomosis on Thompson "in an improper and negligent manner."

Because of this, Thompson, via her attorney William D. Levine, allege that she "sustained a wide-spread, life-threatening condition which required an additional complicated surgical procedure to correct and which has caused her to suffer and will continue to cause her to suffer the rest of her life."

PVH and Dr. Edward Ayers were named as co-defendants in the suit. Michael J. Farrell and Tamela J. White represented them both.

In his reply, while admitting he was Thompson's attending physician, Ayers "deni[ed] that he delivered medical care during Lucy Ann Thompson's surgery." In its reply, PVH said it "is without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truthfulness of the allegations contained therein and, therefore, demands the same and demands strict proof thereof."

The case was put on hold for almost a year while a case against Levine's insurance carrier, P.I.E Mutual Insurance Company, reached a conclusion in the Franklin County, Ohio Court of Common Pleas. The case, records show, dealt with Ohio's insurance commissioner's allegations that P.I.E was insolvent.

Then-Mason Circuit Judge Clarence Watt granted a 90-day stay effective Dec. 15, 1997 to March 15, 1998. Records show during the stay on Feb. 2, 1998, Ayers was dismissed as a defendant.

Records show P.I.E was placed in liquidation by the state of Ohio on March 23, 1998 by the order of Judge Watson in Franklin County. As a result of the order, the West Virginia Guaranty Association assumed P.I.E's liability's and assigned James D. McQueen Jr. and Chanin M. Wofinbarger as Levine's attorney.

Thompson's case against Levine was settled on Sep. 7, 1999. Also, records show, her case against PVH was dismissed on Feb. 16, 2000 with "each party to bear its costs and attorney's fees."

Once again, as one suit against Levine was coming to a close, another one was starting. Records show Sandra and John Hill filed suit against Levine on April 1, 1999 alleging a "total abdominal hysterectomy" Levine performed on Sandra on March 24, 1997 later "burst open due to infection."

Again, PVH was named as a co-defendant. Both PVH and Levine, though their respective attorneys, Joseph M. Farrell and Richard D. Jones, maintained that the injuries Hill received where her own.

Records show the Hills, who were representing themselves pro se, did not reply to PVH's or Levine's request for discovery. The Hill's on Aug. 16, 1999 agreed to voluntarily dismiss the suit.

Under seal

Almost two years after settling the Hill case, Urata A. Singleton sued Levine. In her suit, filed Oct. 4, 2001, Singleton alleged that Levine filed to properly remove a ganglion cyst from her left foot on April 7, 2000.

"Because of a direct and proximate result of defendant's negligence, Singleton suffered permanent damage in and to her left foot and leg was well as other parts of her body," said Singleton's attorney Frank Armada in filing her complaint.

Records show Singleton was seeking $15,000 in damages for direct medical expenses as a result of Levine's alleged malpractice.

Levine via his attorneys Barry M. Taylor and Max L. Corley III said Singleton's "injuries and/or damages proximately resulted from a pre-existing condition or injury or natural disease and not any acts or omissions of this defendant."

Eventually, Singleton made a motion to voluntarily dismiss her claims against Levine on March 29, 2004, a day before the case was slated for trial. Mason Circuit Judge Thomas C. Evans III granted that motion on May 3, 2004.

Though it is not immediately clear, but records indicate Singleton's desire to dismiss the case resulted in her inability to use a "confidential and privileged document" Armada received from PVH.

Records show that Evans ordered some documents under seal.

Armada filed a writ of prohibition against Evans with the state Supreme Court on March 23, 2004. The court in a 4-1 decision denied Armada's petition.

Also, the court denied a petition by Taylor and Corley to place the entire file under seal.

During the March 29 hearing, Taylor and Corley filed a motion for protective order requiring Armada to return the document. Though Evans said Armada did not have to return it, he was barred from discussing it.

"The document referenced is confidential and privileged and orders setting forth its nature and placing it and certain other related documents under seal remain in full force and effect upon dismissal," Evans said in his ruling. "Moreover, plaintiffs and Mr. Armada shall not disclose the privileged document and/or its contents except by further order of this Court."

Though only portions of Singleton's malpractice case against Levine were placed under seal, the entire case of another case was.

According to records, Delores Clonch was the lead plaintiff in a suit filed against Levine and PVH. The suit was filed on Dec. 27, 2000.

Tamela White represented Levine and PVH with Robert Q. Sayre and Richard M. Lewis representing the plaintiffs.

The case was dismissed on Oct. 19, 2001, two weeks after Singleton filed her suit. Court records are unclear as to which side made the motion to Judge David W. Nibert to seal the file.

Mason Circuit Court case numbers 94-C-24 (Leport), 96-C-173 (Thompson), 99-C-48 (Hill), 00-C-216 (Clonch, et. al.) and 01-C-320 (Singleton).

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