Med Center Denies Negligence

By Tim Sullivan Hoya Staff Writer

Lawyers representing the Georgetown University Medical Center have filed a response to a $1.8 billion negligence lawsuit in connection to a former employee who may have infected patients under his care. According to Interim Executive Director of External Affairs for the Medical Center Amy DeMaria, William Buckley (CAS ’69), lawyer for the Med Center, filed the motion Wednesday, which denies the allegations made against Jeffrey Royal, a former technician in the intervention radiology department.

The lawsuit alleges that the Med Center acted negligently in its hiring and supervision practices. On Feb. 2, Royal was fired after being caught siphoning the painkiller fentanyl from a patient. He later admitted to acting similarly in other cases, affecting somewhere between 500 and 600 patients. He plead guilty to tampering with consumer products on April 7.

The Med Center informed the affected patients that they should be tested for HIV and Hepatitis B and C. Royal has since tested negative for all three diseases. Last month, former Med Center spokesman Paul Donovan said he could not disclose the results of tests performed on patients.

DeMaria said that the response, which also “denies any wrongdoing,”

answers the complaints alleged by the suit, which represents nearly 600 former patients. The next step, according to DeMaria, is that the judge in the trial will hold a scheduling meeting, which will be the first time the litigants go before the judge.

She also said that there will be “no significant discovery” conducted between now and the scheduling meeting.

Jon D. Pels, who along with Joseph Cammarata (SFS ’80) and Keith W. Donahoe represent the plaintiffs, said that one of the purposes of the type of motion filed by the Med Center is to limit discovery to only whether or not the rival lawsuits can be consolidated into one class action. The motion, called a motion for protection, would preclude the lawyers from investigating the negligence charges for 120 days.

The lawsuit alleges five counts of negligence and pain and suffering. It alleges that the Med Center was negligent in its hiring and supervision practices because it did not perform a drug test on Royal prior to his hiring, as is recommended by the American Hospital Association. Cammarata also said that Royal may have had a prior record of similar behavior while employed at two other area hospitals, Washington Adventist Hospital in Rockville, d., and Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md.

The suit also claims that patients were subjected to pain and suffering due to Royal’s actions, both through potential exposure to disease and lack of proper dosages of painkillers. Each claimant is asking for $2 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.

Pels said that there had been no talk of settlement between the two parties, which he said would be premature at this point. He said that the Med Center seems certain to litigate whether or not the lawsuits will be considered a class action, which he said the sides are “diametrically opposed on.” He said that he “could not settle in good faith” because the level of damages had not yet been ascertained, such as if any of the patients contracted HIV or Hepatitis B or C.

Related Links

 Royal Enters Guilty Plea (4/11)-Former Patients File $1.8B Suit (3/17)

 Med Center Wants 294 Patients Tested (2/25)

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