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Gander resident suing Haggie, Johnson and Central Health

Health and Community Services Minister John Haggie speaks to reporters about the implementation of a province-wide supply chain management system for the health system.
Health Minister John Haggie is being sued for an alleged incident that occurred while he was a practising surgeon at James Paton Memorial Hospital in 2014. Dr. Phyllis Johnson and Central Health are also named in the suit, which has been filed by Gander resident Marc French. - SaltWire Network file photo

Ongoing negligence lawsuit still in the discovery stage

GANDER, NL – A two-year-old negligence case filed against current Health Minister John Haggie, Dr. Phyllis Johnson and Central Health won’t be going to court anytime soon.

The Supreme Court confirmed there has been no set date for another appearance.

Filed in February 2016, former patient Marc French claims Haggie, a practising surgeon at James Paton Memorial Hospital at the time, punctured his colon during a colonoscopy on March 27, 2014, leading to a series of ongoing health issues and follow-up medical procedures to correct the effects of the puncture.

The claim also names Johnson, who treated French during a subsequent emergency room visit and the Central Health Regional Integrated Health Authority.

While representation from both the plaintiff and the defence declined comment on the ongoing lawsuit, both confirmed it is still moving forward.

Glenda Best with the law firm Roebothan McKay Marshall is representing French. She noted the case is in the “discovery stage.”

Discovery is the process of exchanging information between the parties.

Peter Browne of Curtis Dawe Lawyers, which represents both Haggie and Johnson, confirmed this as well.

“Defences have been filed by all of the defendants and the parties are still in the process of exchanging relevant documents,” Browne said earlier in February.


The statement of claim indicates French had complained of pain under the right side of his rib cage after the initial procedure and that Haggie advised him it was caused by gas.

The pain would increase in intensity throughout the day and resulted in French returning to the Gander hospital’s emergency room.

He was seen by Johnson, who ordered blood work and x-rays. It was again suggested French was suffering from gas.

Three days later he was transported to the hospital in an ambulance and, French states, no further investigation would occur until Haggie returned to work the next day.

It was discovered French had become septic due to an undiagnosed puncture of his colon. On April 1, 2014, a second procedure – “a laparotomy as well as a peritoneal lavage and drainage of the right subphrenic abscess, along with the primary closure of the puncture” – was carried out.

French remained in hospital for two weeks and continued to experience severe pain before being discharged. Following the discharge, he developed an infection at a drainage site and required additional surgery.

French is claiming negligence in the medical care he was provided by all three defendants and is seeking an unidentified amount in damages.


The statement of defence for Haggie and Johnson was filed in July 2017.

Haggie states he discussed the potential risks associated with the procedure with French and obtained informed consent to proceed, and that after he was aware of what was causing French’s medical issues he proceeded to correct the matter.

Haggie would continue to treat French, seeing him more than a dozen times after his discharge until their last point of contact on July 29, 2015.

Haggie claims his “care and treatment of French was appropriate and conducted in accordance with well-recognized medical practice and procedure…” required of a medical practitioner.

Johnson claims her examination of French “revealed a non-distressed gentleman,” and that x-rays and bloodwork returned normal, adding “there was nothing to indicate a perforation.”

Central Health denies French suffered the damages alleged as a result of the health authority’s actions.

In its October 2016 statement of defence, Central Health claimed it “was not responsible to ensure that (Haggie) or (Johnson) utilized due care and attention in carrying out medical or surgical care,” and was “entitled” to rely on the expertise and judgement of Haggie and Johnson.

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