Wichita — In a rare legal move, the nation's largest hospital chain is asking a court to sanction a Wichita lawyer who sued the company over its staffing of nurses at hospitals across the country.
Attorneys for HCA Inc., the parent company of Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, say Lawrence Williamson should be sanctioned because his class-action lawsuit accusing the company of intentionally understaffing registered nurses at its 182 hospitals was "frivolous" and "baseless."
The lawsuit was dismissed in July. HCA is now asking that Williamson and his clients pay nearly $400,000 in attorney's fees to the nine attorneys it hired to defend the lawsuit since April.
Williamson said the motion was intended to intimidate him, noting that HCA asked for sanctions only after he appealed U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten's decision to dismiss the case.
Lawyers who specialize in civil litigation say such requests for court sanctions against an opposing side is a rare move in a system based on adversarial debate.
John Gibson, the Wichita counsel for HCA, said he thought sanctions were requested "fairly frequently" in both state and federal court, although he couldn't say how many times he'd filed such motions.