INDEPENDENCE, MO–A chiropractor in Missouri has won a $6.3 million judgment in his case against former members of the Missouri State Board of Chiropractic Examiners for suspending his license.
The case stems from accusations that a chiropractor, who ended up leaving Missouri after the accusations, had convinced a Mennonite farmer with AIDS that he was cured and could start a family.
The patient died and left behind a wife and daughter, each with HIV infections. From the beginning, the chiropractor has denied that he ever said the patient had overcome HIV.
After the case came to light in stories published in The Kansas City Star, the chiropractic board suspended the chiropractor’s license for two years — although that suspension was set aside pending appeals that the chiropractor ultimately won in 2002. The board could have tried again to impose its penalties, but it never did, and the chiropractor’s departure from the state would have made disciplinary action moot.
But he filed suit against the former board members in 2005 to collect legal fees and losses to his business. That case went to trial last week. In a 9-3 verdict, the Cole County jury awarded damages of $6,284,759.
Attorney General Chris Koster’s office represented the board members, and a spokesman said the state planned to file a post-trial motion to have the verdict set aside. The chiropractor’s attorneys could not be reached for comment.
The case stretches back 20 years, when the patient whent to the chiropractor’s office several times beginning in 1990.
The patient was a member of a Mennonite sect from north-central Missouri, had hemophilia and contracted the AIDS virus from tainted blood products. He died in 1992.
At dispute in the case is whether the chiropractor told the patient that the treatments cured him of AIDS.
The chiropractor won his appeal in 2002 in large part because a court said he had not been given access to key pieces of evidence. One was testimony the deceased patients widow, which was given in an unrelated lawsuit involving tainted blood that caused the patients AIDS. The chiropractor argued that testimony in that case would vary from the widow’s testimony that chiropractor said the patient was cured.
The chiropractors’ suit also contended that the chiropractic board seemed to overlook a religious anointing ceremony at the patient’s church which was held in hopes of curing him, and the urging made by the minister at his wedding that the patient start a family. The chiropractor suggested those factors might have led the couple to believe patient was cured or to conceive a child even if he remained HIV-positive.
The jury’s verdict came against six former members of the chiropractor board — Lawrence Gerstein, Charlotte Hill, Mary Holyoke, Charles Klinginsmith, Larry Lovejoy and Lee Richardson. Ordinarily, members of such boards are immune from civil suits for their official duties. But there is an exception when a court finds they acted with gross negligence. Still, the state’s legal expense fund will ultimately cover any damages.
Source: The Kansas City Star