Law firm pushes for more penalties against doctor in hepatitis case


MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- Attorneys for patients who may have been exposed to hepatitis B said Monday that they had filed for a lien against the doctor's home.

"The reason we have done that is we requested insurance information kindly and they failed to provide it," said Peter McGrath of McGrath Law Firm.

McGrath said there were 22 confirmed cases of hepatitis B after getting spinal injections at the Tri-County Spinal Care Center in North Charleston.

McGrath also said 534 patients were exposed to the virus, but only 167 people have been tested so far.

"The people that they have been told that they are negative or have not been showing the positive results right now, have suffered pain and suffering," said McGrath. "They are lying in bed at night not knowing that they are sick, they're going to get sick in the future or they were sick in the past."

McGrath Law Firm represents about 30 patients of the facility; only 4 of them are infected, but they are still waiting on testing results from others.

At a press conference with attorneys and some of the affected patients, attorneys said they had filed for a lien against the doctor's home and requested insurance information about his practice. Attorneys said the doctor at the center of the case has faced a license suspension previously.

"The problem was, the record keeping wasn't perfect and the paperwork wasn't perfect. So, they wrote letters to some 500 people last May, many of which apparently never reached them," said McGrath.

Rikard & Protopapas LLC, the law firm representing Tri-County Spinal Care Center, issued a statement Monday afternoon saying that the health center had cooperated fully with the health department's investigation and that the health order had been withdrawn.

"Now, over a year later and seven months after DHEC ended its investigation, a law firm has held a press conference to 'inform the public.' This same law firm is suing Tri-County for money damages. DHEC had already informed the public and conducted a full and final investigation and DHEC has fully reinstated Tri-County," the firm said in a statement. "It should be noted that the lawyers who conducted the press conference have only filed one lawsuit and they failed to follow South Carolina law relating to filing a medical malpractice action and failed to attach an expert affidavit explaining what Tri-County did wrong, if anything, when the lawsuit was filed. A motion to dismiss that case is currently pending."

Rikard & Protopapas also say that the doctor's medical license suspension has been lifted.

Last year, the Department of Health and Environmental Control stepped in after three people were diagnosed with hepatitis B. Testing expanded from 18 people, to 23, to several hundred.

In July of 2013, McGrath Law Firm filed suit on behalf of the patients.

According to a release from the McGrath Law Firm, their attorneys are demanding independent testing and treatment for all of the patients who received injections at the clinic since September 2011.

"We have sent notifications or made calls to close to 600 patients of the clinic advising them of their potential exposure," said DHEC's Jim Beasley last year. "As of July 2, we had identified 19 individuals with hepatitis B. Eight of those had recent or acute hepatitis B infection, one had chronic hepatitis B, and 10 had resolved hepatitis B infections."

DHEC began its investigation into the clinic on May 20 after three people were diagnosed with hepatitis B. Since then at least 15 more have tested positive for hepatitis B.

DHEC recommended anyone who was injected since September 2011 at the facility on Dorchester Road in North Charleston be tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV.