Chiropractor wins $6.3M against Board

August 20, 2010

Independence MO |20 Aug – A former Independence chiropractor has won a $6.3 million judgment in his case against former members of the Missouri State Board of Chiropractic Examiners for suspending his license.

By SCOTT CANON
Kansas City Star

The case stems from accusations that Gary Edwards, who took his chiropractic practice to Alabama several years ago, had convinced a Mennonite farmer with AIDS that he was cured and could start a family.

The patient, Duane Troyer, died and left behind a wife and daughter with HIV infections. Edwards always has denied that he ever said Troyer had overcome HIV.

After the case came to light in stories published in The Star, the chiropractic board suspended his license for two years — although that suspension was set aside pending appeals that Edwards ultimately won in 2002. The board could have tried again to impose its penalties, but it never did, and Edwards’ departure from the state would have made disciplinary action moot.

But he filed suit against the former board members in 2005 to collect legal fees and losses to his business. That case went to trial last week. In a 9-3 verdict, the Cole County jury awarded damages of $6,284,759.

Attorney General Chris Koster’s office represented the board members, and a spokesman said the state planned to file a post-trial motion to have the verdict set aside. Edwards’ attorneys could not be reached for comment.

The case stretches back 20 years, when Troyer went to Edwards’ office several times beginning in 1990.

A member of a Mennonite sect from north-central Missouri, Troyer had hemophilia and contracted the AIDS virus from tainted blood products. He died in 1992.

At dispute in the case is whether Edwards told Troyer that the treatments cured him of AIDS. Edwards has insisted that he made no such claim. Troyer’s wife and mother-in-law have contended otherwise.

The chiropractor won his appeal in 2002 in large part because a court said he had not been given access to key pieces of evidence. One was testimony Troyer’s widow gave in an unrelated lawsuit involving tainted blood that caused Troyer’s AIDS. Edwards argued that testimony in that case would vary from the widow’s testimony that Edwards said Troyer was cured.

Edwards’ suit also contended that the chiropractic board seemed to overlook a religious anointing ceremony at Troyer’s church held in hopes of curing him and urging made by the minister at his wedding that the Troyers start a family. The chiropractor suggested those factors might have led the couple to believe Troyer was cured or to conceive a child even if he remained HIV-positive.

The jury’s verdict came against six former members of the chiropractor board — Lawrence Gerstein, Charlotte Hill, Mary Holyoke, Charles Klinginsmith, Larry Lovejoy and Lee Richardson. Ordinarily, members of such boards are immune from civil suits for their official duties. But there is an exception when a court finds they acted with gross negligence. Still, the state’s legal expense fund will ultimately cover any damages.

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