WINFIELD – The medical malpractice lawsuits against a former Putnam County doctor might be delayed if he files for personal bankruptcy.

During a Nov. 16 motion hearing, Putnam Circuit Judge O.C. "Hobby" Spaulding said Dr. John A. King's attorney had contacted the court about plans to file the bankruptcy petition.

If that happens, the first trial that was scheduled to begin Nov. 27, would be delayed. According to federal bankruptcy law, that delay would last for at least 90 days, but could go longer. Spaulding delayed the first trial until at least Dec. 3.

King, who changed his name to Christopher Wallace Martin last year, worked at Putnam General Hospital from November 2002 to June 2003. Putnam General and Hospital Corp. of America, which owned the facility then, also are named as defendants in the 122 malpractice suits.

Attorney James Gordon Stephens of Bessemer, Ala., told The Record that he was going to file those bankruptcy papers Nov. 21 in Alabama. Because of early holiday deadlines, it isn't yet known of Stephens filed those papers.

He said he represents King only in the bankruptcy, not the civil action.

"I don't know anything about the malpractice cases," he said.

Also during last week's hearing, Spaulding refused a hospital request by that patients injured by King's surgeries cannot be awarded punitive damages.

Spaulding scheduled a hearing on more pre-trial motions for Nov. 28, and jury selection for the first trial is set for Nov. 29. Those dates, of course, will change if King filed for bankruptcy.

Also last week, Spaulding refused Putnam General's request to have the cases transferred to another county because of extensive media coverage. He also refused to reverse a July jury ruling that found Putnam General could be sued for punitive damages in the cases.

Last year, Charleston Area Medical Center bought Putnam General from HCA. The facility is now known as CAMC-Teays Valley Hospital.

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