Judge dismisses Citizens board members from cardiologists' lawsuit

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

July 13, 2012 at 2:13 a.m.
Updated July 14, 2012 at 2:14 a.m.

A federal judge has ruled Citizens Medical Center board members cannot be sued by three Victoria cardiologists.

The immunity was granted Monday in regards to the 2010 resolution passed by the hospital that stated only cardiologists with hospital contracts could exercise clinical privileges at the hospital.

The cardiologists, Drs. Ajay Gaalla, Harish Chandna and Dakshesh Parikh, claimed in the lawsuit that the approved resolution discriminated against their right to practice medicine at the hospital, however they could not prove that violation, according to court documents.

U.S. District Judge Gregg Costa ruled the resolution was a legislative act, meaning the resolution was part of business conducted during the board's business meeting.

The board members granted immunity include Donald Day, Joe Bland, Dr. Andrew Clemmons, Jennifer Hartman, Luis Guerra and David Brown, according to documentation.

However Brown, the hospital's chief executive officer, is still a part of the lawsuit concerning discrimination claims that don't involve the resolution, according to the judge's conclusion.

These include racial slurs toward the cardiologists such as referring to them as "the Indians," and a comment from Brown saying he was working on a plan for "getting the Indians off the reservation," according to court documents.

The immunity ruling is the latest development in the lawsuit's two-year history.

The lawsuit was filed in February 2010, when the cardiologists claimed the hospital conspired and racketeered when they approved the resolution. A month later, the lawsuit grew when the cardiologists claimed discrimination.

A preliminary injunction was filed in the doctors' favor, but soon after, the hospital appealed and the injunction was reversed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled the resolution filed was about legislative action and not discrimination.

The cardiologists argued that immunity should not apply to non-elected officials, but it was granted anyway.

Monte James, lead attorney for the cardiologists, said this is the first of many rulings to come.

James, of Austin, also said the judge mentioned the possibility of a trial in November.

"Drs. Parikh, Chandna and Gaalla are very pleased to have Judge Costa on the case and look forward to trial in November," he said.



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