Court of Appeals rules on Citizens Medical Center lawsuit

Jan. 13, 2011 at 6 p.m.
Updated Jan. 12, 2011 at 7:13 p.m.

A response from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has overturned an injunction order previously imposed upon the defendants in the Citizens Medical Center lawsuit.

The injunction was part of a federal lawsuit filed in February against the Victoria hospital by Drs. Ajay Gaalla, Harish Chandna and Dakshesh Parikh, all three of whom are cardiologists.

On Jan. 6, the Court of Appeals overturned Federal Judge Janis Graham Jack's injunction order against Citizens, which she issued in March 2010.

The injunction stopped Citizens from barring the plaintiffs from practicing medicine at its hospital.

In December 2010, before the appellate court handed down its decision, Jack had found Citizens to be in contempt of the order and ordered it to pay $14,539.40 in attorneys' fees.

"We are pleased with the ruling from the Fifth Court," said attorney Kevin D. Cullen, one of the attorneys for the defendants.

Monte James, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said his clients plan to appeal the appellate court's ruling.

"The appellate court ruling was limited to evidence the physicians possessed back in March 2010. Since that time, the physicians have discovered significant additional evidence to support their claims. Some of that evidence was presented to Judge Jack at the recent Motion for Contempt hearing against Citizens, which the federal court granted and ordered the hospital to pay the physicians their legal fees incurred in bringing the Motion for Contempt," James said. "The physicians feel the U.S. Supreme Court may wish to address the economic credentialing issues noted by Judge Jack at the preliminary injunction."

Additionally, Citizens' board of directors has filed a second appeal regarding rulings Jack made on other claims within the case.

Jack ruled that the plaintiffs' following claims all had enough evidence to go to trial: the equal protection claim, which is the discrimination claim; the substantive due process claim, which is the claim that said Citizens could not bar the doctors from practicing because of economic reasons; and the procedural due process claim, which contends the doctors should have received a formal hearing at Citizens before they were barred from practicing at the hospital.

The board members claim Citizens is a governmental entity and therefore not able to be sued for the aforementioned claims because it possesses governmental immunity, according to court documents.

At this time, however, the case will not be going to trial because of Jack's order to stay the case, pending the appellate court's response to the board of director's second appeal.

The case was originally scheduled to go to trial on Feb. 2 in Victoria.



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