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Court reinstates suit that helped close UCI Medical Center's liver program

April 18, 2007|From a Times Staff Writer

A state appeals court has resurrected the malpractice lawsuit that helped shut down UCI Medical Center's troubled liver transplant program.

A lower-court judge threw out the case two years ago on grounds that plaintiff Elodie Irvine had agreed to a $50,000 settlement from the hospital.

Irvine, who had deadly kidney and liver disorders, spent four years on UCI's organ transplant waiting list before transferring to another hospital and getting the procedures done within two months.

She sued UCI in 2004 for negligence and fraud. A year later, she signed an agreement to settle the case for $50,000. But before the check arrived, she found out the Orange hospital had rejected 38 livers and 57 kidneys available to her through a national organ clearinghouse.

She refused to cash the $50,000 check and asked a judge to overturn the settlement. The judge denied her request.

Irvine, of Irvine, appealed that ruling and scored a victory Monday when a four-judge panel for the 4th District Court of Appeal said Orange County Superior Court Judge Randell Wilkinson had erred when he rejected her motion to overturn the settlement agreement.

In reinstating Irvine's case, the appeals court didn't evaluate the merits of her claims.

UCI spokesman Tom Vasich said the university was exploring its legal options.

Irvine has also sued her original attorney, Lawrence Eisenberg, for alleged legal malpractice, saying he pressured her into accepting the $50,000 settlement.

Eisenberg, who represents 35 other transplant patients suing UCI, said that Irvine's case against him had no merit and that he might countersue her for malicious prosecution.

Irvine's original lawsuit led to a federal investigation of UCI's transplant program.

The probe said more than 30 waiting-list patients died while UCI doctors turned down viable organs.

The school closed its liver program in November 2005 after the federal government decertified it and withdrew funding.

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