Three former patients sue physician, who sues WVDHHR

By Chris Dickerson and Kyla Asbury | Aug 6, 2015

MOUNDSVILLE – Three former patients are suing a physician who, in turn, is suing the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

In the three lawsuits filed by former patients, Dr. Roland F. Chalifoux Jr. and Valley Pain Management were named as defendants in the suits.

In Chalifoux's lawsuit, he names WVDHHR; its secretary, Karen Bowling; West Virginia Bureau of Public Health; its former West Virginia Commissioner and State Health Officer, Dr. Letitia Tierney; Toby B. Wagoner, its Public Information Officer; West Virginia Division of Disease Epidemiology; its employees, Drs. Danae Bixler, Loretta Haddy, Sherif Ibrahim and Somu Chatterjee; Wheeling Ohio County Health Department and its employees, Howard Gamble and Dr. William Mercer; Marshall County Health Department; and Marshall County Health Department Health Officer Dr. Kenneth Allen, as defendants in the suit. He also names unknown, unnamed individuals, corporations, organizations or other legal entities.

Gerald R. Auten, Ingrid Algeo and Melissa L. Schmidt claim they received medical treatment for pain management from the defendants, which included multiple injections, according to three complaints filed July 20 in Marshall Circuit Court.

The plaintiffs claim Chalifoux's systematic failure and/or refusal to implement and utilize universal principles of proper sterile techniques during his treatment of patients receiving injections at Valley Pain Management to prevent infection and cross-infection.

As a result, the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health investigated Chalifoux and Valley Pain Management to ascertain if sterile techniques were being practiced at Valley Pain Management, according to the suits.

The plaintiffs claim Chalifoux did not wear a mask when injecting or placing a catheter in the epidural space of his patients; did not practice sterile techniques; cleaned the patients' skin only once prior to an injection procedure, when three times is required for a sterile field; did not practice proper hand hygiene; environmental cleaning between patients was not standardized and was insufficient; and he employed a lack of standard injection safety practices.

Chalifoux breached the standard of care owed to the plaintiffs and his patients by failing and/or refusing to fully cooperate with the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health in its efforts to contact his patients with an alert and recommendation that his patients be tested for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV, according to the suits.

The patients are seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. They are being represented by Brent E. Wear and Robert P. Fitzsimmons of Fitzsimmons Law Firm PLLC; and Kathleen J. Fantazzi of Gold, Khourey & Turak LC.

In Chalifoux's lawsuit, which was filed July 21 in Marshall Circuit Court, he claims on July 21, 2014, a news release was issued by the defendants that published false statements without due regard to the truth.

The news release "was false as it pertains to the plaintiff," according to his suit.

Chalifoux also claims the lawsuit was libelous and clearly exposed the plaintiff to "hatred, contempt, ridicule, malpractice claims and criticism" because it implied that he used contaminated needles on multiple patients, none of which was true.

As a result of the new release's publication, Chalifoux suffered loss of income; has endured injury to his personal and business reputation; shame and mortification; and injury to his feelings, according to the suit.

Chalifoux claims the defendants' actions were malicious.

Chalifoux is seeking compensatory damages in excess of $1.5 million and punitive damages. He is representing himself.

Last year, the West Virginia Board of Osteopathic Medicine suspended Chalifoux's medical license for alleged unsafe practices at Valley Pain Management in McMechen. But Kanawha Circuit Court Judge Charles King later reinstated it.

Chalifoux had previous similar allegations brought against him in Texas. A Texas board revoked his license there for violating standards in treatment of three patients, including the 1996 death of a 61-year-old man after unnecessary surgery was performed.

Marshall Circuit Court case numbers: 15-C-130, 15-C-131, 15-C-132, 15-C-134

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