BECKLEY – Attorney Robert Berthold Jr. of Charleston thought client Tiffany Lambert sued physician Norman Siegal and nurse midwife Carolyn Spurlock over brain damage her son suffered, but she sued the United States of America.

Although Siegal and Spurlock don't work for the government, Berthold discovered they qualify as federal employees for purposes of tort liability.

He dropped Lambert's claims against them Aug. 5 after assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Horn moved to substitute the U.S.A. as defendant. Now Lambert must seek administrative remedies before suing the government.

Meanwhile, she can proceed with a suit against Raleigh General Hospital. Lambert gave birth on April 27, 2007, to a son, Robert.

This June, Berthold filed suit on her behalf against the hospital, Siegal, Spurlock and their employer, Associates in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

He alleged medical malpractice, negligence, carelessness, recklessness, incompetent management, willful lack of care and deviation from the normal standard of care.

He sued in Raleigh Circuit Court, but Horn removed the suit to U.S. District Court and moved for substitution of the U.S.A. in place of Siegal and Spurlock.

Horn wrote that in 2003, Associates in Obstetrics and Gynecology merged into Community Health Systems Inc. He wrote that since 1996, Community Health Systems employees and contractors were deemed employees of the U.S. Public Health Service for purposes of tort liability.

Community Health Systems now does business as Access Health, he wrote.

Paul Farrell of Huntington represents Raleigh General Hospital.

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