Moniz: Burt right to sustain Lahey lawsuit
David Burt and his Cabinet’s decision to continue with a lawsuit launched by the former government against the Lahey Clinic is in Bermuda’s best interests, Shadow Attorney-General Trevor Moniz said yesterday.
Mr Moniz said the Premier and his Cabinet colleagues Kim Wilson and Walter Roban clearly knew a lot more now than eight months ago, when they signed a legal brief drawn up by Ewart Brown’s lawyer in support of a motion by the hospital to have the case dismissed.
“They have put themselves in a little bit of a difficult position,” said the One Bermuda Alliance MP. “[But] obviously, that was then, this is now. The case should proceed and they need to get on with it.
“I wouldn’t have done what they did, I don’t think, but that’s neither here nor there. Their explanation would presumably be ‘if we knew then what we know now’. Now they obviously know a lot more. Now they see what really was going on.”
Mr Moniz spearheaded the action against Lahey when he was Attorney-General in the OBA government, filing the suit against the Massachusetts-based teaching hospital in a federal court in Boston in February last year.
The civil claim named former premier Dr Brown as a “co-conspirator” and claimed he conducted “excessive, medically unnecessary and frankly dangerous scans” at his two private clinics in Bermuda for his own “enrichment” and gave Lahey a cut of the fees he collected from insurers.
Dr Brown strenuously denies the allegations, as does Lahey.
Lahey responded to the lawsuit with a motion to have the case dismissed and Dr Brown’s lawyers filed a legal brief to support that motion in May last year, signed by 11 past and present Bermuda parliamentarians. A hearing on the motion to dismiss is due to take place on Wednesday.
The brief described the lawsuit as “politically motivated” and a “personal vendetta against the PLP and Dr Brown, as one of its former and influential leaders”.
As well as Mr Burt, Mr Roban and Ms Wilson, the other signatories were Dr Brown, former PLP premier Alex Scott, PLP MPs Wayne Furbert, Kim Swan, Michael Scott and Zane DeSilva, and Mark Pettingill and Shawn Crockwell, who were then independent MPs.
The lawsuit was expected to be dropped after the PLP’s election win last summer, but this week the Government’s lawyers in Boston filed a fresh submission with the court, in which they continued to oppose Lahey’s bid to have the case dismissed.
The submission called on the court to deny Lahey’s motion and alleged that “Lahey’s continuous and systematic illegal activities ... caused substantial harm to Bermuda’s business and property interests in the United States over a 20-year period”.
On Sunday, Mr DeSilva quit Cabinet, citing the conflict caused by his close relationship with Dr Brown.
Mr Burt, who is at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, has yet to respond to questions from The Royal Gazette about why his government is pursuing the legal action when he and two Cabinet ministers personally opposed it last year.
Mr Moniz said the Premier’s “personal predicament about why he did that then” when he was Opposition leader should have no bearing on whether the case proceeds.
“I’m sure he’ll say ‘that was then, this is now’,” he said. “This is a substantial case involving a lot of money and it should proceed. The best advice the Government has been able to obtain has said it’s a strong case and they should proceed.
“The Premier is in an interesting position because at one point he was the chairman of the PLP while Dr Brown was premier. At one point, he certainly worked very closely with him. Maybe there’s some personal bond, but this rises above that. We are talking about the interests of Bermuda. You have to put all that aside.”
He suggested the three Cabinet members issue a statement to explain they “didn’t know the whole story at the time and we are in a different position now and we recognise that”. Mr Moniz said he was never pursuing a vendetta, as alleged, but was acting on the “best of the best advice I could get”, adding that Mr Burt and his colleagues were presumably now doing the same.
A source with knowledge of the investigation into Dr Brown’s relationship with Lahey said Mr Burt would be acutely aware of the need for the island to show a “robust stand against corruption” on the global stage.
“If the Government were seen to dismiss these substantial allegations, that would be a huge black eye for our reputation,” added the source, who asked not to be named.
Attorney-General Kathy Simmons said: “I am particularly mindful of what is in the best interests of Bermuda. My actions and words are guided by that one singular focus.
“In accordance with professional protocol, the Attorney-General’s Chambers will not comment on any active matter that is before the courts.
“However, where it is appropriate and in the public interest, upon conclusion of any matter, including the Port Royal and Lahey cases, details of the actions taken will be provided.”
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