Profession

Judge lowers award dollars in peer review case, lets findings stand

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Oct. 16, 2006

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A Texas federal judge in September reduced a multimillion-dollar jury award to a physician but upheld the unlawful peer review ruling against a hospital and three cardiologists.

U.S. District Court Judge Jorge A. Solis in the Northern District of Texas knocked down the overall damage award against Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas and the peer review committee doctors from $366 million to $22.54 million in his ruling in favor of Dallas cardiologist Lawrence R. Poliner, MD. Solis found that jurors had awarded multiple damages for the same claims and determined that the jury's original verdict of more than $200 million for punitive and mental anguish damages was "excessive."

The court denied Presbyterian's request for a new trial, finding that Dr. Poliner's previously "unblemished" career was "decimated" after his privileges were unfairly suspended.

Michael P. Lynn, one of Dr. Poliner's attorneys, said they expected the reduced award but that it was "critical" that the court upheld the jury verdict "to vindicate Dr. Poliner, and through him the other doctors who have been abused by baseless peer reviews."

The 2004 jury verdict captured the attention of the medical community, with some doctors, fearing it would chill peer review participation.

Thomas S. Leatherbury, a lawyer for Presbyterian and the defendant doctors, did not return calls for comment. But a spokesman for Texas Health Resources, Presbyterian's parent company, said the hospital planned to appeal the ruling.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2006/10/16/prbf1016.htm.

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