CLARKSBURG – Doctors working for the U.S. government enjoy greater protection from malpractice suits than other doctors, a wrongful death plaintiff discovered.

U.S. District Judge Frederick Stamp ruled on Jan. 29 that those alleging negligence against government doctors must exhaust administrative remedies before suing.

"The disposition of a tort claim by a federal agency is a prerequisite to initiating an action in the district court," he wrote.

He dismissed a claim from the estate of Ronald Lee Boggess against George Shehl.

Four days earlier, Stamp had substituted the U.S. for Shehl as defendant.

The estate's executrix, Brenda Boggess, sued Shehl and another doctor, Gerardo Lopez, in Harrison County circuit court last November.

The suit claimed Shehl and Lopez negligently prescribed a drug, amiodarone, that proximately caused Boggess's death.

The estate had filed an administrative claim with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs 33 days earlier.

"Because the plaintiff filed this action before the VA denied or adjudicated her administrative remedies and before the passage of the six month period which would implicate statutory presumption of denial, this court finds that the plaintiff has failed to exhaust her administrative remedies for her claims against Dr. Shehl," Stamp wrote.

Lopez did not work for the government, so Stamp remanded the estate's claim against him to Harrison County.

Wesley Metheney of Morgantown represents the estate.

Gregory Haddad and Kerrie Boyle of Morgantown represent Lopez.

Assistant U.S. attorney Daniel Dickinson of Wheeling represents the government.

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