Tulare Hospital District, And Administrators, Face Down Lawsuits

This story has been updated to reflect that Dr. Parmod Kumar was not named in the suit filed Monday, though he was involved in the actions the suit is contesting.

The Tulare Local Healthcare District is in discussions to settle two nonpayment lawsuits, and has just been named in a third — along with Tulare Regional Medical Center’s administrator, Dr. Benny Benzeevi.

Misuse of Funds

The new suit, filed Monday, names Dr. Benny Benzeevi, Dr. Rebecca Zulim, Los Angeles attorney Bruce Greene, and the district as defendants. They are being sued by David Phelps, represented by Visalia attorney Michael Lampe.

The suit is the second that Lampe has pursued against the district relating to a case filed by Kumar, Zulim, and Benzeevi against Dr. Abraham Betre, a former member of the Medical Executive Committee — a case that has had financing from the district.

Because the district isn’t a party to the action, the suit claims the district is paying solely to further the trio’s interests. Estimates include $98,213.84 paid for legal services as of September 2016 — when Lampe’s first suit was filed — and $78,306.78 in an appellate bond, after Betre’s actions were found to be protected activity in the Tulare County Superior Court.

The suit seeks for Bruce Greene to be forced to pay back “any amount declared forefited by the court to the District,” and for Benzeevi to “reimburse the District for all expenses charged to the District on his behalf in the Kumar lawsuit including, but not limited to, the $78,306.78 Appellate Bond…”

The suit also claims that the move to fund the suit constitutes an “illegal gift of public funds” to Greene and Benzeevi.

Greene serves as attorney for Healthcare Conglomerate Associates (HCCA) Benzeevi’s company that runs day-to-day operations at TRMC. To the hospital’s administrators, he is also still the district’s attorney.

While board members Kevin Northcraft, Mike Jamaica and Senovia Gutierrez voted to replace him and the BakerHostetler firm with a Fresno-based firm, Benzeevi has made it clear that the hospital’s administration doesn’t consider the vote binding because they don’t believe that Gutierrez is officially a board member yet.

In prior statements, the hospital’s administration has defended using its funds to pursue the Betre case, stating that it has an “obligation to preserve the integrity of the hospital’s peer review process.”

The trio’s suit claims that Betre violated confidentiality when speaking with the Voice for an article in the Voice’s March 16, 2016 issue.

“The District had legitimate reasons for funding the plaintiffs’ attorney’s fees in the Betre case, and it should be patently obvious that there was no misuse or waste of “public funds.” The District’s position has been set forth in court pleadings, and will be reiterated in the trial of the matter,” a statement from the hospital in February 2017 read.

“That position, in brief, is that the District has an obligation to preserve the integrity of the hospital’s peer review process in order to protect patient safety and that by disclosing what he purported to be confidential peer review information to the press, Dr. Betre not only undermined the integrity of the peer review system, he also undermined the ability of the District to attract new physicians, who obviously rely on the confidentiality of the peer review process.”

Lampe’s prior suit, still in court, claimed that the district’s use of funds was a waste of taxpayer money.

Benzeevi stated that he was unable to comment as he had not yet seen the suit.

Not Providing Enough Funds

At the other end of the spectrum, two vendors have filed suits stating that hospital officials have failed to make payments. Hospital

Specialty Laboratories, Inc., a lab testing company that has had a relationship with the district since 2007, is seeking repayment of $93,206.26 in unpaid invoices. The company is suing both HCCA and the hospital.

TRMC/HCCA owes Specialty Laboratories a total of $93,206.26, plus interest.

The company filed suit in March, but officials with the hospital never filed responses, causing the company to file for an entry of default.

That’s because the suit wasn’t serviced properly, Benzeevi stated.

“The Specialty Lab case was improperly served and the resulting request to enter default was also improper,” Benzeevi said. “Settlement discussions have taken place.”

Process servers for Specialty Laboratories served copies of the suit to a Davinci Virtual Office address on Wilshire Blvd — but not to HCCA’s registered agent of service.

Additionally, Graham Prewett, a Fresno-based roofing contractor, sued the Tulare Local Healthcare District for $45,453.60, which the company claims was owed to it since March 16, 2016. The suit is dated May 3, 2017.

The company is seeking the total amount, plus 12% interest per year from the March date onward. Officials with the company declined to comment.

Benzeevi stated that the suits are in settlement talks, and singled out the protest at the hospital board’s July 26 meeting as a roadblock in the process.

“We reached a settlement in the Graham Pruett [sic] case, subject to Board approval. The settlement agreement was to be considered at the last board meeting,” Benzeevi said. “Northcraft and Jamaica refused to attend the meeting and as a result there was no quorum and the meeting had to be adjourned. We may well have now lost the opportunity to settle the case.”

The three filings are available for viewing below.

In Depth: Tulare Regional Medical Center

13 thoughts on “Tulare Hospital District, And Administrators, Face Down Lawsuits

    • The DA is too enmeshed with HCCA. HCCA just gave a hugh political donation to the DA’s re-election committee. He seems to look the other way when it comes to Benzeevi/HCCA and one could assume that he may have well have good reason to do so…..money talks loud and clear.

  1. The DA needs to declare a conflict of interest and recuse himself with all dealings with HCCA. An investigation into HCCA needs to be conducted by an outside agency and conducted by the Fresno County DA , Kern County DA or CA Attorney Generals Office. The citizens have spoken, the election was legally conducted by The Tulare County Elections Department, the results validated twice and still stall tactics by HCCA. HCCA does not call the shots for the citizens of Tulare as they think that they do!! Mr. Ward is an elected official and took an oath to serve and protect the Citizens of Tulare County and not special interests. If that is the case go into private practice. If not a recall should be considered against him as well as Devin Mathias if they turn an eye away from their duty to protect the public and it’s tax dollars.

    • We should write an open letter to the DA, and ask him what is his current price. We should raise that much money and buy him to work for us.

  2. It is all a lie.
    There are no lawsuits.
    “Some people” are doing this to hurt the hospital upon instigated by “certain doctors”.

    Hospital is running fine & dandy. We are in financial condition as never before (you got that right Benny).

    Doctors were coward. When they were not paid, they just left. They should have stayed and sued them.

  3. Despite the recall election and the recount, Kumar is still a board member according to the hospital’s website! We are paying the thief Benzeevi millions of dollars so he can laugh at the will of the Tulare citizens.

  4. This is not a comment as to the merit or credibility of the lawsuits, will leave that to a capable judicial system, but rather the attorney who filed on “behalf of plaintiffs”. I always found it intriguing why a local attorney had time to be grand standing at a local Health Care District Board meeting when he is from Visalia and now there is clarity. Yes, perhaps if the funds are awarded to the plaintiffs it would be returned to The District, but buried in the complaint is recovery for attorney fees. This is not the first time he has used well meaning citizens of Tulare and their good name to promote his own income, as he so stated in a memoriam piece about Dr Drilling published June 1st in The Valley Voice. Mr Lampe you are a poster child for reasons the CSBA should require MPRE annually. You are an embarrassment to the profession, one rung below an ambulance chaser, at least they are up front about their agenda, you sir, are not. You have taken upstanding citizens who have every right to express their concerns and have manipulated into your own financial gain. If I am wrong, perhaps you could publicly commit to whatever you may receive as a donation to the Tulare Hospital Foundation

    • SA-
      I dont think Mr Lampe forced Citizens to hire him.
      Who knows if Mr Lampe is even being paid?
      Anyone who devotes to fight our fight is welcome.
      You, SA, on the other hand, looks like trying to make an issue out of non-issue.

  5. SA. I also found it intriguing that an arrogant thief (Benny) who lives in Visalia but is from down south is trying to ruin our hospital and his money hungry lawyers from down south are trying to help him. Mr. Lampe was born and raised in Tulare. He has many friends and family from here. This is effecting everyone from all areas of THIS valley. Typical HCCA fan attacks. They have nothing else.

  6. SA I find your comments curious and ignorant of how the law works. If you have a Personal gripe against Lampe that’s one thing. But to make a statement that a local attorney can’t have passions like anyone else simply ignores reality. As an attorney myself I believe the lawsuit should be the last resort in any dispute. But SA how would you suggest we handle a management company working for public entity that refuses to provide public documents and uses the public funds has his own bank account. Should we just ignore them? Or should we make a stand and forced him to abide by the law. I support the latter.

    Like him or not, Lampe picked up the cause and agreed to represent
    those plaintiffs. You seem to not understand the fact that if he is not successful he does not get paid. You also seem to not understand that if his recent lawsuit is successful the district stands to gain significant amount of money from reimbursement. You also seem to not understand the fact that filing and prosecuting a trial is expensive. Who will pay for that? You? The The citizens of The district are fortunate that we have an attorney in this community to take up the cause and help us keep our public hospital
    Unless you want to keep the hospital as it is today with poor quality and on the edge of financial ruin, I suggest you allow the lawsuits and Lampe to continue or on alternatively you can finance your own lawsuit.

    • SA isn’t ignorant of how the law works but he does sound like someone who has a “personal gripe” against Lampe……maybe due to some type of legal matter? He is just anther spokesperson for Benzeevi/HCCA, etc. (could it be Kumar or Torrez or Wilbourn???)

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