Pettingill explains his involvement in Lahey case
Former attorney-general Mark Pettingill has told why he got involved in civil court proceedings brought by the Government of Bermuda against the Lahey Clinic.
The independent MP, who has lent his name to a document in support of Lahey’s motion to have the case dismissed, said he merely told the truth when asked by Ewart Brown’s lawyer if he knew about the former premier’s business relationship with the Massachusetts-based teaching hospital.
Mr Pettingill, one of 11 past and present members of the Bermuda legislature to sign the brief, told The Royal Gazette that nine years ago, when a family member of his was diagnosed with a serious illness, he approached Dr Brown to ask for help because he knew of the premier’s association with Lahey.
“We weren’t particularly friendly, but we were both in the House and I asked to have a meeting with him,” he said. “He helped basically make a couple of calls and got my [relative] through the door for treatment. I ended up making very good friends at Lahey.”
The case for unspecified damages against the hospital alleges that it conspired with Dr Brown on an unlawful enterprise fuelled by its payment of “secret” bribes to him, which caused injury to the Government and Bermudian patients.
The claim alleges: “[Dr] Brown . . . had an obligation to disclose his relationship with Lahey, but affirmatively concealed it.”
But Mr Pettingill said Dr Brown’s business relationship with Lahey was common knowledge and his awareness of it was the very reason he approached the premier in the first place.
“I was totally aware of that relationship and he knew that,” he said. “I thanked him at the time for putting us in touch.”
He said he got a call recently from Dr Brown asking if he’d be willing to answer a few questions about the lawsuit from an attorney in the United States and he agreed.
“When I got a call asking was I aware that Ewart Brown had a consultancy, I said ‘yes, absolutely’. I just told the truth.”
He and the other ten current and former legislators agreed to act as amici curiae — or friends of the court — filing a brief aimed at shedding light on a matter of “great importance in Bermuda”.
The other signatories are Dr Brown himself, former premier Alex Scott, former United Bermuda Party leader Kim Swan, Progressive Labour Party leader David Burt and MPs Wayne Furbert, Michael Scott, Zane DeSilva, Kim Wilson and Walter Roban, as well as independent MP Shawn Crockwell.
Mr Crockwell and Mr Pettingill work together at Chancery Legal law firm and the former has represented a patient of Dr Brown, whose medical records were seized by police during raids on his clinic.
Mr Pettingill said that was “entirely separate” to the brief and there was “no financial gain” for him in adding his name to it.
The brief details how Dr Brown’s relationship with Lahey was in the public domain as far back as 1997, as outlined in an article in this newspaper in February.
A letter raising concerns about the association was sent to Mr Furbert when he was United Bermuda Party health minister in July 1998, and that correspondence was reported on by The Royal Gazette in November that year. An earlier story, published in 1997, described Lahey as an “associate clinic” of Dr Brown’s.
Former UBP leader Mr Furbert, who crossed the floor to the PLP in 2010, said at the time he had no problem with the business arrangement.
The amici curiae brief states: “Mr Wayne Furbert is an amicus and stands behind his statement that the government at [the] time was aware of and had no issue with Dr Brown’s relationship with Lahey.”
It goes on to say the Government “and, indeed, the public at large” were aware of the business relationship from 1998 through to 2010, when Dr Brown stepped down as Premier.
The lawsuit alleges a breach of racketeering laws, but the brief from Mr Pettingill and co says that knowledge of the relationship by the Government meant any legal complaint would need to have been made within the four-year statute of limitations for such offences.
The Massachusetts District Court has yet to rule on Lahey’s motion to dismiss the case.
The hospital insists the action is politically motivated and the same claim is made in the amici curiae brief.
Dr Brown, who is not a party to the action, has said it contains “countless lies and ridiculous allegations”.
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