Florida doctor sues paper for $600 million
May 12, 2005
ORLANDO, Fla. - A Florida psychiatrist who claims he was defamed in a 2003 Orlando Sentinel article on prescription painkillers is seeking $600 million in damages in a lawsuit against the newspaper and its parent, Tribune Co.
The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday by Florida attorney Willie Gary, said the Sentinel damaged the reputation of Dr. Michael Gutman by falsely implying he was responsible for the deaths of at least 11 of his patients.
At a news conference aboard his lawyer's plane at Orlando International Airport on Thursday, Gutman described himself as "a broken man, 18 months on the mat, can't pay taxes, can't pay my staff, waiting for this day of resurrection."
In a story on the lawsuit published on Thursday in the Sentinel, Ashley Allen, vice president of corporate communications for Orlando Sentinel Communications, said, "We do not comment on pending litigation."
A Tribune Co. spokesman was not immediately available to comment on the lawsuit.
Gutman's lawsuit alleges he was defamed in the Sentinel's expose of OxyContin and other prescription medicines, specifically in articles headlined: "Many die while doctors exploit Medicaid" and "11 die from doctor's prescriptions."
"It implied this doctor handed the guns and the bullets to (a) patient ... and he didn't," said Gutman's lawyer, Madison McClellan.
Gary, Gutman's other attorney, said his client requested a retraction from the Sentinel last month but received no reply from the newspaper.
The suit names as defendants two reporters, Rene Stutzman and Fred Schulte, as well as the Orlando Sentinel Communications Co., Tribune Co. and Tribune Publishing Co.
Tribune Co. is one of the top U.S. media companies, whose properties include the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Newsday and a host of broadcasting outlets.
The suit seeks $600 million in damages for Gutman's future lost earnings, injuries to his reputation and mental anguish.
Gary won an $18 million judgment against the Pensacola News Journal and Gannett Co in December 2003 on behalf of a road-paving magnate who said the newspaper cast him in a false light by implying he killed his wife.
Doctor Disputes Allegations Surrounding Patient Deaths
December 3, 2003
-- A local doctor is speaking out to defend himself against allegations surrounding the deaths of several patients. He operates a pain management clinic and 10 of his patients have died in the last three years from prescription drugs.
Dr. Mike Gutman says he's being wrongly accused in the swirl of controversy surrounding drugs like oxycontin after several patients died and several state agencies began investigating him. Gutman held a news conference to explain his position and talk about investigations by FDLE, the Attorney General's Office and the Florida Board of Medicine.
Ten of Gutman's patients have died of drug overdoses in the past few years, including two children who took their mother's drugs.
Gutman says most of the patients were addicts who used the drugs improperly. He says he has done nothing wrong and admits that drug addicts regularly try to use his office to get their drugs.
He says, try as he might, identifying addicts out of a pool of legitimate patients is incredibly difficult.
"So it's a dirty business, ugly risky business and I hate it," says Dr. Gutman. "But I love helping the people who are in pain, that are getting better and getting their lives back again."
Gutman is a psychiatrist who operates the pain clinic at the corner of Parramore and Colonial. He's asking his patients to come forward and defend him against allegations made in the media. He's actually taken out an ad in the newspaper to solicit support from past patients.