Charleston surgeon wins self-insurance lawsuit

By Sarah K. Winn
Staff writer

A West Virginia Supreme Court ruling issued Tuesday upheld a Charleston surgeon’s right to provide his own medical malpractice insurance.

“The hospital is not always going to win, like they have done in the past,� said Karen Miller, sister and attorney of Dr. R.E. Hamrick Jr.

In a 2004 lawsuit, Hamrick alleged that Charleston Area Medical Center pulled his privileges after he obtained $1 million worth of self-funded medical malpractice insurance instead of going through a commercial vendor, according to new accounts and court documents.

CAMC said Hamrick’s fund was not financially sound, did not comply with the hospital’s Medical Staff Procedures Manual and failed to meet the requirements of the state’s Medical Professional Liability Act, according to appeal filings.

In September 2004, the Supreme Court granted an injunction restoring Hamrick’s privileges while the case was argued in Kanawha County Circuit Court, according to appeal filings.

In June 2005, Kanawha County Circuit Judge James Stuckey granted summary judgment to Hamrick. CAMC appealed last September.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court upheld Stuckey’s ruling in a 5-0 vote.

This kind of issue will never come up again, said CAMC attorney Neva Lusk.

Since the lawsuit had been filed, CAMC enacted an internal policy that allows doctors to insure themselves, and a 2006 state law allows doctors to set up their own self-funded trusts to cover medical malpractice lawsuits.

“The bottom line for us [CAMC] is that we get along beautifully with our physicians except for a very rare occasion,� Lusk said.
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