A Charleston, W. Va., surgeon recently won a $25 million judgment in a defamation lawsuit against a local hospital.

 

R.E. Hamrick Jr., MD, accused the Charleston Area Medical Center (CMAC) of sullying his reputation when it revoked his privileges. A Circuit Court jury in Kanawha County, W. Va., awarded him $5 million in compensatory damages and $20 in punitive damages for the hospital’s “fraudulent, malicious, and oppressive conduct.”

 

The hospital pulled Dr. Hamrick’s privileges in September 2004, after he self-insured against malpractice liability with a $1 million trust account, according to published reports. The surgeon sued, and the state Supreme Court of Appeals ordered the hospital to restore privileges until the self-insurance issue was resolved.

 

As the insurance case proceeded, CMAC argued that Dr. Hamrick’s self-insurance was both inadequate and against state law, but the Circuit Court and the Supreme Court of Appeals sided with Dr. Hamrick. In 2006, the state legislature explicitly authorized malpractice self-insurance and CMAC changed its policy.

 

Meanwhile, the defamation case remained open, culminating in a two-week trial that ended Feb. 7.

 

“When you revoke someone’s privileges, it is a scar on the reputation for life,” Dr. Hamrick’s attorney told the jury, according to The Charleston Gazette.