India-born doctor sues own defence team

Melbourne, Feb 14: An India-born doctor, who faced trial in Australia for causing bodily harm to a patient, has sued a law firm and a junior counsel for A$884,000 for failing to tell him that the lawyer assigned to him was “inexperienced” in conducting criminal trials.

Jayant Patel, who returned to the US last year after he was cleared of the charges against him by a Brisbane court, has demanded A$884,000 in damages from law firm Raniga Lawyers and barrister Michael Woodford, who was appointed by the firm to defend the doctor, media reported.

The firm defended him in his 2010 trial for three counts of unlawfully killing patients and causing grievous bodily harm to another in the Australian state of Queensland.

In the case, he was convicted and jailed for seven years.

The claim in the Queensland Supreme Court in Brisbane alleges that in 2008 Patel retained Raniga Lawyers to defend him on criminal charges for which he was extradited from the US.

Patel alleges that Raniga Lawyers failed to tell him the lawyer assigned to him was “inexperienced” in conducting criminal trials, the Courier Mail reported Friday.

He said Raniga Lawyers should have supervised his defence lawyer Woodford.

He contended that Woodford was a junior, inexperienced counsel who did not have the skills to fight such a complicated case.

Patel said he should have been briefed about counsel’s skills by the firm since the charges against him were very serious, and he could have faced life sentence if convicted.

Woodford, however, declined to comment.

Patel claimed that Raniga Lawyers failed to get full particulars of the charges and allegations from the prosecution so it could not properly advise him about available defences.

Patel was charged with killing Gerry Kemps, 77, and James Phillips, 46, and causing bodily harm to Ian Rodney Vowles, 66, in the Bundaberg Base Hospital in Queensland.

He was acquitted of a manslaughter charge after a jury failed to reach a verdict.

Gujarat-born Patel had a controversial tenure in the Bundaberg Base Hospital from 2003 to early 2005, during which over 80 deaths were linked to him, including 30 patients who died in his care.

After that, he left for Portland, Oregon, in the US.

He was, however, extradited to Australia in 2008 to face trial.

IANS