Embattled doctor may get hearing; trial in lawsuit scheduled for Jan. 17

POULSBO — Even as he began the arduous effort to restore his medical license and his reputation in two different courts, Dr. Narinder Duggal of the now-defunct Liberty Bay Internal Medicine said he would be vindicated, that all of the accusations against him would be proven false.

The people who accused him of overprescribing medication and making sexual advances were “liars,” he said.

The first civil case against him was dismissed on June 19, 2015 when the plaintiff, representing herself after her attorney withdrew, said she wouldn’t be ready to go to trial on the scheduled date.

The plaintiff in a second civil case against Duggal dropped her lawsuit on Oct. 14, 2015. Court documents show that she — a law school grad and certified conflict resolution consultant — had submitted a list of 20 witnesses and 29 evidentiary exhibits only a day earlier.

And this week, a state Appeals Court judge ruled that the state Medical Quality Assurance Commission wrongfully denied Duggal’s request for a hearing regarding its findings against him — findings that led to him losing his medical license. “He’s now entitled to his hearing,” said Amber Mallory, paralegal for Duggal’s lawyer, Thomas Olmstead. Mallory said the hearing could happen “fairly swiftly.”

The Court of Appeals, Division II, filed its ruling on Nov. 22.

To recap: Following its investigation into the allegations of eight former patients, the state Medical Quality Assurance Commission determined that Duggal had committed “unprofessional conduct” and, on Jan. 15, 2014, Duggal signed an agreement to voluntarily surrender his license. On Feb. 4, he asked that the agreement be withdrawn and requested a hearing at which he could respond to the commission’s findings; according to documents in the case, Duggal was entitled to “the opportunity to defend against these charges.” The state instead accepted the surrender agreement, on Feb. 13.

A Thurston County Superior Court judge upheld the state’s decision on Oct. 9, 2015; the state Court of Appeals ruled for Duggal.

Duggal’s legal challenges are far from over. He’s entitled to a hearing before the commission, but the commission could uphold its earlier findings and not restore Duggal’s license.

And a third lawsuit, for malpractice, is scheduled for trial in Kitsap County Superior Court on Jan. 17.

Duggal’s director of pharmacology at Liberty Bay Internal Medicine was also disciplined by the state.

On Feb. 27 this year, the state Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commission determined that Nicholas Wyatt gave a patient being seen for severe insomnia a prescription for Ambien, even though Wyatt was not registered with the Drug Enforcement Agency to do so.

The commission also determined that Wyatt prescribed the patient 10 times the recommended daily dose of Ambien “without expert consultation,” putting the patient at risk of “negative side effects including exhibiting aggressive behaviors and experiencing memory loss.”

The commission, an arm of the state Department of Health, formally reprimanded Wyatt, placed his license on probation for up to four years, and ordered him to complete a typewritten essay of at least 1,000 words “addressing the pharmacist’s duty” under the Washington Administrative Code “to ensure the safety of the patient’s behalf in either a clinical or institutional setting.”