CLAIMS ALLEGE HOST OF DOCTOR ERRORS
The thousands of malpractice cases reported to the state Board
of Medicine since 1993 allege a host of medical errors and negligence by
Many blame doctors for a death. Others fault physicians for brain
damage suffered by an infant at birth. Some cases allege the wrong organ
was removed, or the wrong limb amputated.
Two-thirds of the malpractice cases reported to the board ended
with settlements or jury verdicts in the plaintiff's favor. The following
are some examples:
- Dr. Harry G. Kennedy Jr. agreed to pay $4.35 million to settle a 1994
Harrison County case that left a 20-year-old woman permanently disabled
with brain damage.
The woman had gone to a Clarksburg hospital's emergency room in 1993
complaining of severe headaches. Kennedy, a radiologist, misread a scan of
her brain as normal, the claim alleged.
The woman returned to the ER the following week, as the headaches had
grown worse. Only then did doctors discover that she had a blood clot in
her brain. By then, her brain had begun to swell, causing permanent brain
Dr. Shivshankar Uchila Navada, a Clarksburg neurosurgeon, saw the woman
after CT scans revealed the blood clot. But Navada operated on the woman's
The woman was flown to Charleston, where another neurosurgeon saved her
life. But brain swelling caused a temporary coma and a stroke-like
condition. She lost the ability to both walk and speak.
Navada settled out of the case for $1.65 million. The settlements by
Kennedy and Navada paid for crucial rehabilitation care for the woman that
partly restored her speech and ability to walk, one court filing said. But
both skills remain impaired, and she is considered disabled for life.
- Dr. Dwarka N. Vemuri paid $4 million to settle claims by three
different women, including a 69-year-old nun, who accused the Wheeling
cardiologist of fraud. Vemuri performed unnecessary angioplasties, surgery
to open blocked blood vessels, on all three, their claims alleged.
One alleged a torn artery from the process required emergency surgery to
- Dr. Stuart Henry Fox has paid $2.7 million to settle eight
claims filed against him. The Huntington obstetrician was ordered
to pay $177,578 by a 1999 jury in a ninth claim, while another jury
cleared him in a 10th.
At least three of these cases blamed Fox for a death, while a fourth
faulted him for a botched abortion-related procedure.
Fox's medical license was placed on probation in 1994 after the widower
of one of Fox's patients complained to the state Board of Medicine. The
man's wife had gone to Fox for a hysterectomy, and died two weeks later of
complications from the procedure. The claim alleged the hysterectomy was
unnecessary and unadvisable because of her weight, liver and
A 1998 report on the board's action said Fox was performing up to 60
hysterectomies a year, and that his insurer settled the widower's claim
for $775,000 without his consent. He filed for bankruptcy last year,
- Dr. Oscar Solidum Irisari has paid $1.9 million since 1993 to resolve
four malpractice claims. A fifth case was dismissed against
the Moundsville obstetrician during that time.
One settled claim blamed Irisari for brain damage suffered by an infant
born in 1993. Another alleged a delay in diagnosing breast cancer in a
Prior records show Irisari had paid, through his insurers, $3.5 million
to settle eight other malpractice claims between 1984 and
1993. The Board of Medicine fined Irisari in the 1980s for failing to
report one of those settlements, mandated by state law. He was required to
pass a competency exam after the board disciplined him again, in 1994,
- Dr. Conrad D. Tamea Jr. had 12 claims reported between 1993
and 2000. One ended in a $120,000 jury verdict, while three others settled
for a total of $383,000. The remaining claims were dismissed.
The settled claims accused the orthopedic surgeon of botching a
1994 jury found against Tamea after he allegedly failed to diagnose bone
disease in a 15-year-old boy.
- Dr. Boonlua Lucktong paid $2.5 million to settle four claims
filed against him over his work at the Beckley Veterans Affairs Medical
Two of those claims blamed Lucktong for deaths at the VA center.
The Board of Medicine suspended his license in 1996, and required him to
pass a competency exam. After he failed the exam, the board revoked his
license the following year.
The federal government initially balked at reporting the claims
to the state Board of Medicine. State officials secured an order from a
federal judge to compel the VA to follow the reporting law.
The VA paid the claims against Lucktong on his behalf. Insurance
companies paid the other claims listed above on the behalf of those
To contact staff writer Lawrence Messina, use e-mail or call 348-4869.