Hospital lawsuits settled out of court |

Hospital lawsuits settled out of court

Christina Proctor

It’s settled.

After more than a year of legal wrangling in two states, the lawsuits between Barton Memorial Hospital and Carson Valley Medical Group settled out of court this week.

The details of the settlement are confidential. Matthew Steinberg, attorney for the Carson Valley Medical Group, said the terms were negotiated last week, and both sides have dismissed their cases.

In the lawsuit, filed March 1997 in El Dorado County, the doctors’ group accused the hospital, Barton’s Management Services Organization, and Barton’s Chief Executive Officer William Gordon of racketeering, trade libel, fraud and unfair business practices. The doctors claimed that Gordon and the hospital attempted to undermine the future of the group’s practice in the Gardnerville/Minden area, a formerly underserved market.

Five days later, Barton filed suit in Douglas County claiming the medical group owed them about $520,000 as part of a lease termination payout schedule outlined in a 1994 agreement between the group and hospital. The Douglas County case was scheduled to go to trial Monday.

The lawsuits created tension in the medical community. The doctors in the medical group continued to work at the hospital during the litigation, but sides were formed. Gordon said the settlement is a “first start” in bringing the medical community back together.

“There are a lot of fences to mend, but I do believe this is a good thing,” Gordon said. “This is a small community and it’s an even smaller medical community. To have this type of activity taking place is certainly unsettling. I think I speak for everyone at the hospital when I say we’re all glad this thing is resolved.”

Gordon said the litigation was also a personal burden.

“This, for me personally, has not been a enjoyable period,” Gordon admitted.

Dr. Roger Rogalski, an orthopedic surgeon with the Carson Valley Medical Group, believes neither side emerged victorious.

“I don’t think there were any winners,” Rogalski said. “I don’t think we accomplished anything over the past two years. This settlement should have happened a year ago and it would have saved both sides a lot of money in legal fees.”

Rogalski also expressed frustration over continual court delays and changing trial dates.

“We could never get a court date that was reasonable. Both of us, in all likelihood, believed we were in the right, but we had to settle. It had gone on too long, and there was no guarantee that we would go to trial in May. We were supposed to be in court a year ago,” Rogalski said. “Who knows who was right and who was wrong. I don’t think anybody is happy. I know I lost money by trying to pursue what I thought was right. But you have to choose which hill to die on and this is not the hill.”

Rogalski said he doesn’t believe there will be any lasting fallout in the Tahoe community from the legal battle, but there will be some residual feelings of mistrust.

“The loss of trust in a small community is difficult to regain,” he said.

Dr. Keith Swanson, another orthopedic surgeon with Carson Valley, said he also doesn’t anticipate any lasting effects from the lawsuit.

“It’s good for the medical community and the hospital staff to get this behind us,” Swanson said.

Swanson said during the legal battle the Carson Valley Medical Group continued to expand.

“We really do provide a large amount of medical care to the valley. The lawsuit has been a drag on us. Now we can concentrate on what we do best – taking care of our patients.”

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