POULSBO — Dr. Narinder Duggal will appeal in Superior Court the state decision that stripped him of his medical license.
Thomas Olmstead recently took over as Duggal's lawyer. He will represent Duggal as they appeal the surrender of his medical license, and in civil lawsuits brought by several of Duggal's former patients. He is also representing Duggal in a malpractice lawsuit against the doctor's former lawyers.
Olmstead said the case against Duggal was not properly handled by previous counsel.
"Dr. Duggal practiced for 15 years here in Kitsap County," Olmstead said. "He's seen thousands of patients. Out of them, eight complained. Out of those eight, six are nut cases."
Duggal surrendered his license on Feb. 13 after the Medical Quality Assurance Commission, a division of the state's Department of Health, approved a settlement agreement that was signed by Duggal. The settlement forced Duggal to surrender his license after an investigation into allegations of unprofessional conduct, overprescribing, and making sexual advances toward a patient.
Duggal has 30 days to appeal the decision.
Olmstead said Feb. 14 that they will appeal in Thurston County Superior Court. Olmstead said he and Duggal petitioned to halt the settlement agreement before the Feb. 13 commission meeting, after Olmstead took over as Duggal's legal representation. But a judge denied their petition and Duggal's medical license was surrendered soon thereafter.
"The court will determine if the judge was proper in refusing to do that," Olmstead said. "The judge wrote an order that made no sense and was contrary to the facts. He basically said that because I came in at a late date and tried to use a different trial tactic, that would not be grounds to withdraw the surrender."
Olmstead said he did not try a different tactic. He said Duggal’s previous counsel “failed to provide Dr. Duggal with the information against him. They didn't send any questions to the eight complaining patients. They never took a deposition from the patients or interviewed them. They just stockpiled the information that the attorney general gave to them, and charged Dr. Duggal an enormous amount of money."
In light of this, Olmstead said that the judge should have accepted their petition to halt the settlement agreement.
Olmstead also said that the commission "stockpiled" complaints against Duggal for more than a year before it chose to prosecute.
"As a practicing attorney, you get nut cases all the time because they want to get their fees back," he said. "Anyone who is in a professional practice knows you cannot see 10 people without one of them complaining. That's part of being in the practice of law or medicine."
Olmstead also said that Duggal brought forth hundreds of supportive letters from patients, providing positive accounts of his practice.
"There were hundreds of people that wanted to step forward with letters of commendation … the judge eliminated the positive letters to only four."
The case against Duggal began in November 2012 when the Medical Quality Assurance Commission filed a statement of charges against him. An investigation by the state Department of Health and the Attorney General’s Office determined there was enough evidence to warrant a hearing, and in May 2013 Duggal's medical license was suspended.
In the settlement agreement accepted on Feb. 13, the commission found that Duggal had violated the Revised Code of Washington and committed unprofessional conduct in his practice. It also found that Duggal violated Washington Administrative Code by abuse and sexual misconduct with patients. The commission's findings of fact state that Duggal mishandled the pain management of various patients, as well as the treatment of addiction to pain medication. It also states that Duggal did not adequately examine patients.
The findings of fact state that Duggal made sexual advances toward a patient. The patient was being treated for bipolar disorder, among other things, including pain management with medication, and Duggal told her that bipolar persons are sexually intense. When the patient questioned this, he told her, "I'm a doctor, I'm a psychiatrist, and I'm bipolar … I know," according to the findings of fact.
The findings of fact recounted one patient's experience with Duggal's sexual advances. The findings state he groped her in an examination room, "forcing his tongue down her throat," and that he sent her sexually graphic text messages. When the patient did not reciprocate, Duggal told her that he was in charge of providing her pain prescriptions, the findings of fact state.
The findings note that the patient complained she did not like her experience with the medications, but Duggal continued to prescribe them. When the patient changed doctors, the new doctor told her she was taking too many medications.