Malpractice verdict in favor of doctor being appealed by former patient

A former patient at Liberty Bay Internal Medicine in Poulsbo is appealing a Superior Court jury verdict that his doctor was not negligent in his care and treatment — specifically, overprescribing medication.

Editor’s note: This version corrects the spelling of Liberty in the fifth paragraph, and corrects the dosage amount (100 mg) in the ninth paragraph. — Richard Walker

POULSBO — A former patient at Liberty Bay Internal Medicine in Poulsbo is appealing a Superior Court jury verdict that his doctor was not negligent in his care and treatment — specifically, overprescribing medication.

Dr. Narinder Duggal is represented by Mary H. Spillane and Jennifer D. Koh of Fain Anderson VanDerHoef, Rosendahl O’Halloran Spillane, PLLC of Seattle. The former patient was represented earlier by Jonathan Nolley and Michael Gustafson of Emerald Law Group of Seattle.

The jury’s Feb. 1 ruling was unanimous. The court also awarded Duggal $2,165.72 in costs and fees.

The appeal is filed in state Court of Appeals Division II. The judge and hearing dates are expected to be determined by April 14, according to a letter on file in the Superior Court database.

Duggal, who owned the now-defunct Liberty Bay Internal Medicine, was accused of malpractice and/or of making sexual advances by as many as eight patients; the state Medical Quality Assurance Commission investigated and found Duggal had committed “unprofessional conduct.”

Duggal voluntarily surrendered his license, but before the license surrender was accepted he requested a hearing, to which he was entitled. The state commission declined the hearing request and accepted the license surrender. On Nov. 22, 2016, a state Appeals Court judge ruled that the state commission wrongfully denied Duggal’s hearing request.

A state commission hearing is scheduled for May 15-20, at which Duggal will argue that his medical license should be reinstated.

Meanwhile, Duggal was sued in Superior Court by three former patients. The lawsuit now under appeal was the only one of the three that went to trial; the others were dropped or dismissed in 2015.

But in the appellant’s case, the state Department of Health sanctioned Liberty Bay Internal Medicine’s pharmacist for failing to ensure that he was receiving “safe and appropriate medication therapy” after Duggal increased his Ambien prescription from the standard nightly dosage of 10 mg to 100 mg.

It’s not known how the Superior Court jury’s verdict may influence Duggal’s hearing before the Medical Quality Assurance Commission, or how the state and jury came to different conclusions about the accusations against Duggal.

Rick Glein, supervising staff attorney for the state Department of Health, said in an earlier interview that the jury’s decision “doesn’t really affect the medical commission. The commission operates under administrative law and [the earlier findings] will all be addressed. We do our own investigation and it will be tried in front of other commissioners, not just lay people on a civil jury.”

Thomas Olmstead, Duggal’s lawyer in his effort to get his medical license reinstated, said in an earlier interview that he doesn’t think the state has a case. “In a civil case, the standard of proof is a ‘preponderance of evidence.’ For the Medical Quality Assurance Commission, it’s ‘clear and convincing evidence.’ The state is trying to prove the same thing, but how can they, when it’s been dismissed at a lower [standard of proof]?”

— Richard Walker is editor of the North Kitsap Herald and Kitsap News Group. Contact him at rwalker@soundpublishing.com.

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