A three-judge Pennsylvania Superior Court panel has upheld a fine of almost $45,000 against insurance defense attorney Nancy Raynor, imposed for witness intimidation during the medical-malpractice case that at one point also resulted in a controversial $1 million sanction against her.
That sanction, imposed in November 2014 by Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Paul Panepinto, was overturned in June by a separate Superior Court panel.
In a ruling Tuesday, the Superior Court judges said Raynor was responsible for the $44,993.25 in legal fees and other expenses incurred by the plaintiff in the malpractice case, the estate of Rosalind Wilson, as a result of Raynor's actions.
When contacted Wednesday, Raynor declined to comment for this article.
The issue of witness intimidation stems from a note Raynor sent to the general counsel of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania saying that HUP emergency-room physician Stephanie Porges, who was testifying against Raynor's client, was opening HUP to lawsuits. HUP was not a party to the case.
For this note, Raynor was disqualified from further representing her client, Roxborough Memorial Hospital physician Jeffery Geller. He ultimately lost the case.
"The clear intent of this passage was to pressure HUP into coercing Dr. Porges to either change her opinion or to refrain from testifying," Superior Court Senior Judge Patricia H. Jenkins wrote in not only upholding the fine but denying Geller's appeal in the case on grounds including being denied "his constitutional right to choice of counsel."
In addition to Raynor's letter, her associate Judy Packet sent a flurry of notes to Wilson's estate asking if it still wanted to put Porges on the stand as an expert.
"The only purpose for Packet's letters was to advance Raynor's goal of forcing Dr. Porges to change her testimony or refrain from testifying," Jenkins wrote in her opinion.
In 2009, Rosalind Wilson's estate sued Roxborough Memorial, alleging that Geller, an emergency-room physician, and his colleagues failed to inform Wilson of a cancerous nodule in her lung.
Porges testified that Geller breached his medical duty when he did not see to it that Wilson's nodule was properly investigated.
At trial, both sides were ordered by Panepinto to make no mention of Wilson's long history of smoking. A witness called by Raynor, Dr. John Kelly, called attention to the matter in open court, however, leading to a mistrial and the $1 million sanction imposed by Panepinto against Raynor for civil contempt.
In the subsequent retrial, a jury found in favor of Wilson's estate and against Geller.
The estate has appealed the lifting of the $1 million against Raynor to the state Supreme Court. That petition is still pending.