WVU Medicine seeks dismissal of Memorial Health System lawsuit | News, Sports, Jobs

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PARKERSBURG — WVU Medicine is seeking dismissal of a lawsuit by Memorial Health System alleging at least some of the leadership in the university health system and Camden Clark Medical Center supported efforts to file false claims against its across-the-border competitor.

The resulting investigation cost both Memorial and the community, according to a release provided by the Ohio health care system.

“We want the people who live in this valley to know what’s been going on all these years,” Memorial CEO Scott Cantley said. “We feel the people who brought this on ought to be held accountable for their incredibly poor business ethics and behavior.”

Memorial recently filed an amended complaint, adding an allegation of negligent supervision to the suit. Both sides agreed to extend the deadline for the defendants to respond to the updated complaint to Aug. 21.

Earlier this year, Memorial settled a lawsuit against former Camden Clark CEO Mike King, former hospital legal counsel Todd A. Kruger and Dr. Michael Roberts with Parkersburg Surgical Associates. That complaint alleged the three collaborated to make false accusations that Memorial was violating federal law by over-compensating physicians and other health care providers to get them to refer patients to the health system. The original action was dismissed by the government, without prejudice.

“Dr. Roberts and the Marietta Memorial entities mutually resolved their disputes by way of confidential compromise and settlement, without admission of liability by any party,” said Jonathan Jacks, who represented Roberts in the earlier suit. Because of the confidential nature of the settlement, he said he could not comment further.

Memorial’s release said King settled for $2 million. A court document dismissing him from the case did not make reference to a confidential settlement, as the ones related to Roberts and Kruger did.

Attorneys who represented King and Kruger did not return messages seeking comment.

In the release from the hospital, Cantley suggested the total cost in staff time and resources responding to the investigation, plus lost opportunities as a result of the shadow it cast, could exceed $100 million.

“The damages for us are in the tens of millions of dollars for each doctor that didn’t accept an offer from us,” he said.

In May, Memorial filed suit against Camden Clark, the West Virginia University Health System and West Virginia University Hospitals Inc., alleging the plot was hatched with the express approval of certain officers or directors of the hospital, including two directors who served on both the local and state entities.

In a memo supporting its motion for dismissal, Camden Clark and WVU Hospitals deny the allegations, but also say Memorial’s suit should be dismissed because it covers the same ground as the previous complaint and was filed after statutes of limitation had expired.

“Marietta had its chance to assert tort claims … and that chance has passed,” the memo says. “Marietta failed to bring Camden Clark/WVUHS into the prior action despite its knowledge of those defendants’ connections to Camden-Clark and WVUHS as its affiliate, subpoenaing documents from Camden-Clark, examining current and former Camden-Clark employees and board members at deposition and examining current and former Camden-Clark employees at trial.”

Memorial’s suit claims the involvement of Camden Clark and WVU Medicine was discovered early in 2022. The suit seeks to hold them accountable for their “involvement, approval, authorization, sanctioning, support and participation in the egregious intentional misuse of the judicial system and to recover for the extensive damages that it caused.”

The defense memo also says the new suit was filed after statutes of limitations expired for claims of malicious prosecution, abuse of process and more.

The memo says Marietta’s claims stem from the investigation rather than the accusations that prompted it.

“Even assuming for this motion that Camden-Clark/WVUHS had some role … it had no control over the government’s investigatory decisions, methods or resources, or the time the government took to complete its investigation,” it says.

In the statements provided by Memorial, legal counsel Paul Westbrock compares the accusation and subsequent investigation to being “swatted,” when someone calls 911 to send law enforcement such as a S.W.A.T. team to a location where no crime has occurred as a prank or retaliation.

“These were criminal allegations against (Cantley) and our physicians,” he said. “Someone could have landed in jail.”

Dr. Srini Vasan, who was the subject of some sections of the complaint while at Memorial, called the complaint that triggered the investigation “shameful” and “absolute lies and fabrications.” In the material provided by Memorial, he said the investigators did not reveal the nature of the complaint, which was only discovered after it was dismissed and unsealed.

“Some of (the employees) started to feel that Cantley had mismanaged things; they thought he was personally being sued by the federal government; there was fear that he would go down and take the hospital with him,” said Vasan, who now works in a fellowship position at the University of Baltimore, Md. “It was a terrible thing to do because Marietta really is a jewel of a community hospital.”

Charleston attorney Michael Hissam, who is representing the plaintiffs, said in the release from Memorial that he anticipated a motion to dismiss and predicted the case will go to trial sometime next year.

WVU Medicine Camden Clark did not return a message seeking comment for this story.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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