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CASE ARGUES WHO BLEW THE FIRST MALPRACTICE WHISTLE A fight is brewing over a $54 million medical malpractice settlement. A would-be whistle-blower who didn’t get a piece of the settlement pie will get his day in court, according to an opinion published Aug. 22 by the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. In question is whether Dr. Patrick Campbell, an internal medicine specialist, was the first “fully qualified” whistle-blower in a case that accuses Redding Medical Center and its parent company, Tenet Healthcare Corp., of allegedly conducting hundreds of open-heart operations and other procedures on healthy patients and then fraudulently billing Medicare. Campbell, who had suspected wrongdoing by the hospital where he worked since 1993, was the third to file a qui tam complaint with the federal government. The first two complaints were filed by a former patient and his friend. Campbell’s lawyer, David Rude of San Jose’s Clark & Rude, said it was his client’s evidence that most helped investigators crack down on what was happening at the Redding hospital. The two other whistle-blowers “didn’t give the government enough information,” Rude said. Tenet has denied any wrongdoing and has agreed to help with further investigations. In 2003, Rude filed papers saying the $54 million settlement didn’t even begin to cover the costs squeezed out of medical insurance firms. He estimated the costs at about $500 million. “This is a big deal,” Rude said. “Seven hundred people have [unnecessarily had] open heart surgery.” No trial date has been set for the new Campbell trial. &# 151 Julie O’Shea ACTIVISTS BRISTLE OVER SUBPOENAS It was a small and improbable throng of animal-rights activists � riddled with reporters and lawyers � that assembled outside Judge Susan Illston’s federal courtroom Friday. They were there to discuss their indignation, investigations and a man named Daniel San Diego, who’s on the lam after being accused of allegedly bombing two East Bay pharmaceutical companies in 2003. The small assembly followed a closed-door hearing in which the activists tried to convince Illston that they shouldn’t have to testify before a grand jury. It was just the latest installment of a strange saga in which the people called to testify in a criminal investigation have been doing their best to publicize it. That’s because the activists claim the grand jury in San Francisco is part of a nationwide government effort to undermine the animal rights movement by trying to prosecute it as an underground terrorist organization, a characterization they vehemently deny. Indeed, they insist that their illegal activities are completely aboveboard. “These aren’t shadowy underground people,” said Benjamin Rosenfeld, whose client is fighting a grand jury subpoena. “These are people who get arrested frequently in public protests.” While Rosenfeld and the other attorneys involved say the grand jury is part of an organized effort by prosecutors around the country, local assistant U.S. attorneys took umbrage with that characterization in sealed court filings related to the case. While prosecutors write that they are conducting “one of several federal criminal investigations across the nation relating to crimes committed in the name of animal rights,” they add that the local grand jury is only looking into whether activists have helped San Diego avoid apprehension. While Rosenfeld and other lawyers deny this � they say the various grand juries, along with a series of wiretaps, amount to a dragnet � Illston didn’t seem to agree. In the closed hearing, Rosenfeld said, she refused to quash the subpoenas. � Justin Scheck BEARING DOWN ON WAL-MART As San Francisco trial lawyer Mark Webb prepared for one client’s suit alleging Wal-Mart and another company sold a dangerous bicycle, he tracked down a number of witnesses to testify about their experiences with bikes also purchased from the Arkansas-based chain. Though he said he’s “not at liberty” to discuss details of the first case, which eventually settled, Webb still found a way to tell the witnesses’ stories: He turned them into clients, signing them up for a new suit against the giant retailer and two other defendants. The case pits the solo against defense lawyers at San Francisco’s Gordon & Rees and Phillips, Spallas & Angstadt, as well as Dallas-based Gardere Wynne Sewell. Webb asserts that the 10 plaintiffs, all boys, were seriously injured when the quick-release front wheel of their Wal-Mart-bought bikes suddenly detached. “When a wheel comes off a bike and you’re going 10 or 15 miles an hour, right away the bike stops down to zero, but you keep going, right over the handlebars and onto your face,” he said. The suit alleges that the bikes were assembled by “untrained, minimum-wage employees” and usually sold without a manual warning how to avoid accidents caused by loose wheels. Wal-Mart officials and one of its lawyers did not return calls seeking comment. The two other defendants � Dynacraft Industries, which allegedly imported the bicycles, and Carl Warren & Co., which allegedly handled the accident claims � declined to comment on the litigation through one of their lawyers, Gordon & Rees partner Fletcher Alford. But clearly, one of their strategies is to get some plaintiffs thrown out of court. In a demurrer that a Marin County Superior Court judge is expected to rule on soon, Dynacraft and Carl Warren & Co. argue that two of the boys previously reached settlements that released the companies from further liability. And, they added, they plan to make similar arguments against another four plaintiffs at the summary judgment stage. Webb has countered that his clients were misled into settling, an accusation that Dynacraft and Carl Warren have vehemently denied. � Pam Smith

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