State panel will determine whether Duggal gets medical license back

The commission presented its case July 17-19, Duggal’s attorney presents July 20-21

POULSBO — Dr. Narinder Duggal, found not negligent in the care and treatment he provided to a former patient who accused him of malpractice, is this week before a state panel who will determine whether he gets his medical license back.

The state Medical Quality Assurance Commission accepted Duggal’s surrender of his license in 2014, but when he changed his mind and asked for a hearing, the board declined. The state Court of Appeals later ruled Duggal was entitled to the hearing that is now underway in Tumwater.

The commission presented its case July 17-19; the presentation by Duggal’s attorney, Thomas H. Fain of Seattle, began July 20 and is scheduled to continue through July 21, state Department of Health attorney Deborah Taellious said.

The hearing is overseen by a health law judge. A decision will be made by a panel of commission members “no sooner than a month,” Taellious said.

To recap: Following its investigation into allegations of eight former patients, the state commission determined that Duggal — who owned the now-defunct Liberty Bay Internal Medicine — had overprescribed medication and made sexual advances toward a patient.

On Jan. 15, 2014, Duggal signed an agreement to voluntarily surrender his license. On Feb. 4, 2014, he asked that the agreement be withdrawn and requested a hearing so he could respond to the commission’s findings; according to documents in the case, Duggal was entitled to “the opportunity to defend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 commission instead accepted the surrender agreement. On Nov. 22, 2016, a state Appeals Court judge ruled that the commission wrongfully denied Duggal’s request for a hearing regarding its findings against him.

Meanwhile, three patients sued Duggal in Superior Court. The first civil case 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 the second civil case 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. Duggal’s attorney, Thomas Olmstead, later said the lawsuit was dropped, not settled.

In the third case, in which malpractice was alleged, a jury found on Feb. 1, 2017 that Duggal was not negligent in the care and treatment he provided to the plaintiff. The plaintiff is appealing the decision; the Superior Court did not allow as evidence documents related to the Medical Quality Assurance Commission investigation. And Duggal’s director of pharmacology at Liberty Bay Internal Medicine was disciplined by the state for issues related to the same plaintiff’s level of care.

Even as he began the arduous effort to restore his medical license and his reputation, Duggal said he would be vindicated and 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 in an earlier interview.

Rick Glein, supervising staff attorney for the state Department of Health, said after the jury’s decision in the third civil suit that he didn’t expect the verdict to influence the Medical Quality Assurance Commission.

“The commission operates under administrative law and [the earlier findings] will all be addressed,” Glein said at the time. “We do our own investigation and it will be tried in front of other commissioners, not just lay people on a civil jury.”

Olmstead expected his client would get his license back. “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 evidence]?”

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