Judge: Firm shouldn't have sued physicians
Lawsuit was initiated without consent of patient

The Monitor
Thursday, January 25, 2001

EDINBURG - A judge on Wednesday ruled that a Houston law firm did not have the authority to file a medical malpractice suit on behalf of an Edinburg man who did not ask them to do so.

Judge Leticia Hinojosa, of the 139th state District Court, ruled that the law firm of Caddell and Chapman worked outside the terms of its contract when it filed suit against Dr. Tawhid Shuaib, the primary doctor for Ricardo Treviño, and other doctors without notifying Treviño.

The law firm has been ordered to pay attorney fees for the individual doctors named in the lawsuit, which was dropped last week.

Attorney Michael Caddell, who filed the suit, said he disagreed with the judge's ruling and plans to file additional motions to appeal.

"We had a signed contract with the man," Caddell said. "We were hired to sue (McAllen Medical Center) and to sue others responsible."

Treviño in court testimony said he was not aware he had filed a suit against his primary doctor and never intended to sue Shuaib.

But Caddell said the signed contract from Treviño authorized him to seek damages from McAllen Medical Center and other parties that may have wrongly treated Treviño.

Treviño testified he did not recall signing a contract that was written in Spanish, which he said he does not read fluently.

The law firm of Caddell and Chapman represents more than 2,000 people in a class-action malpractice suit against McAllen Medical Center.

Wednesday's ruling stems from a lawsuit filed in 1999 that doctors were to blame for Treviño having to undergo a second heart surgery in 1998 at the hospital.

During the first surgery, one of Treviño's heart valves was damaged and a consecutive surgery was needed to repair it, according to court testimony. Treviño said he was not aware of the lawsuit until his doctor asked him about it almost a year after the surgery.

"No one called me," Treviño testified. "I was not contacted by anyone until two or three weeks ago."

Treviño sat next to his doctor during the trial, and after the ruling appeared happy and relieved.

"I never wanted to sue anybody," Treviño said.

Roger Berger, the lawyer who represents the medical center's cardiology interests, said that this was just one battle in a series of legal skirmishes between Chapman and Caddell and attorneys representing the hospital and the doctors who work there.

"This is like the doctors and hospitals fighting back," he said.

"We don't know what he signed or what he thought he was signing," Berger said of Treviño. "But it was something he didn't understand and he was never notified that a lawsuit had been filed against the doctors."