CHARLESTON -- A state group says a recent YouTube video showing depositions and surveillance video of plaintiffs in the malpractice cases against Dr. John King and Putnam General Hospital suggest "possible fraud."
West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse said this week that the "personal injury lawyers representing claimants in a parade of Putnam County medical malpractice lawsuits should account for surveillance video which suggests their clients may have fabricated sworn testimony."
WV CALA said the video, which appears to show the plaintiffs doing activities they said under oath they could not do after surgeries at
Putnam General Hospital, illustrates another problem with the state's legal system.
"A look at the video could lead one to believe it's the personal injury lawyers who need credentialing" WV CALA Executive Director Steve Cohen said. "It raises questions of possible fraud suggesting these lawsuits are manufactured for money."
Last month, Putnam Circuit Judge O.C. "Hobby" Spaulding found the hospital negligent in credentialing King, who is a defendant in 122 med-mal cases. King was fired by the hospital before any of the lawsuits were filed.
In June, Spaulding also sealed all filings and evidence in the 122 pending lawsuits against King.
Cohen explained that "lawsuit mills like this seem to be a reason why West Virginia's reputation for legal fairness suffers. The real losers from such potential abuse of the courts are those who truly deserve compensation and a rightful remedy under our state's civil justice system."
One of the pending lawsuits has already been dismissed. Plaintiffs in six of the first ten set for trial this fall are captured in potential contradictions in the YouTube video.
WV CALA says these pending Putnam cases smack of a recent West Virginia case in which personal injury lawyers submitted "medical evidence" from a doctor who apparently does not exist.
"Such a mockery of our legal process hurts this state," said Cohen. "If the video of these plaintiffs is authentic the integrity of the lawyers filing these cases is an issue here."
King has been named a defendant by dozens of former patients or surviving family members for his six months at Putnam General in 2002 and 2003. Those medical malpractice cases allege King did shoddy and sometimes unnecessary surgeries.
After Putnam General suspended him in May 2003, King gave up his West Virginia license. He since has changed his name to Christopher Wallace Martin and now reportedly lives in Alabama. He did not testify in the trial, but a videotaped deposition of him was used.
Hospital Corporation of America Inc. owned Putnam General when King worked there. But last August, HCA announced it planned to close the hospital, citing the legal climate of doing business -- including the King malpractice cases. But Charleston Area Medical Center bought the facility and avoided closing Putnam County's only hospital.
The first malpractice case is set for trial in November.