News & Blog

DCP Lawyer Recognized for Community Work

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

DiCaro, Coppo & Popcke is pleased to announce that parter, David Balfour, has been recognized  for his service within the community in the San Diego County Bar Association’s March 25, 2009 edition of the Bar Report.  Mr. Balfour’s volunteerism with Genesis International Orphanage Foundation was profiled in the report.  To read the report, visit the SDCBA website, www.sdcba.org

Advocates for Faith and Freedom News Release

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Advocates for Faith and Freedom News Release
May 27, 2008 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Joni Rogers:  951.304.7583

California Supreme Court – Unmarried lesbian woman asks Court to tell physicians to ignore their faith regarding artificial insemination

Court Date:      May 28, 2008
Location:         California Supreme Court
350 McAllister
San Francisco, California
Time:               9:00 a.m.

Issue to be decided:      Does a physician have a constitutional right to refuse on religious grounds to perform a medical procedure for a patient because of the patient’s sexual orientation?

Attorneys will be available for questions immediately following the hearing on the courthouse steps on the McAllister side of the courthouse.   A copy of the briefs may be viewed here.

SAN FRANCISCO — A California appeals court previously ruled that two San Diego physicians may assert a Constitutional defense, based on their religious and moral beliefs, to a lawsuit brought by an unmarried female patient claiming that the two Ob/GYNs discriminated against her based on her sexual orientation by referring her to another physician for the performance of an IUI (intrauterine insemination) in the course of fertility treatment.  The California Supreme Court will hold oral arguments on Wednesday, May 28, 2008, and review the lower court’s decision.

“Our federal and state constitutions protect the free exercise of religion,” said Carlo Coppo, trial attorney for Christine Brody, M.D., and Douglas Fenton, M.D.  “The restoration of the religious liberty defense is critical to allowing the physicians to tell their story and ensure a fair trial.”

“The doctors have constitutional rights of conscience and religious liberty that cannot be swept under the rug,” added Robert Tyler, general counsel for Advocates for Faith and Freedom.

Dr. Brody began treating Ms. Benitez in August 1999 for infertility and informed the patient at the outset that the only procedure during the course of the extended fertility treatment as to which she had a religious issue was an IUI.  An IUI is an elective, invasive procedure wherein the physician introduces donated sperm with the aim of achieving insemination and creating life.  The defendants contend that Ms. Benitez and her partner understood and agreed to a referral to another physician, at no expense to Ms. Benitez, should the IUI become necessary.  When other fertility protocols were unsuccessful, Ms. Benitez objected to the IUI referral contending that she was being discriminated against because she was a lesbian.

The procedure Dr. Brody followed was the same procedure adopted by the California Legislature in a statute protecting pharmacists from being forced by their employers to dispense the morning-after pill due to their religious beliefs.  Dr. Fenton was not directly involved in the patient’s fertility treatment.

The lawsuit, Guadalupe T. Benitez v. North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group, Inc., et al., was originally filed in the Superior Court of California for the County of San Diego on Dec. 7, 2001.   Advocates for Faith and Freedom and Alliance Defense Fund joined the law firms of DiCaro, Coppo & Popcke and Cole Pedroza, LLP, in defense of the litigation.

Mr. Kenny Pedroza, who will argue the case before the Court on behalf of the doctors, stated, “This precedent setting case may have a significant impact on the medical community in the future.”
Advocates for Faith and Freedom
24910 Las Brisas Road, Suite 110   Murrieta, CA 92562
Ph: 951.304.7583   Fax: 951.600.4996   www.faith-freedom.com

Kibler v. Northern Inyo County

Thursday, July 20th, 2006

On July 20, 2006 the Supreme Court of California in Kibler v. Northern Inyo County Local Hospital District, (2006) 39 Cal.4th 192, issued a landmark decision holding for the first time that Hospital peer review is protected, under the anti-SLAPP statute, from harassing, premature lawsuits initiated by physicians to disrupt and undermine the peer review process.

FACTS:  On December 13, 2002, Dr. Kibler filed a lawsuit in Inyo Superior Court against Northern Inyo Hospital and several individually named defendants seeking damages on a number of tort theories relating to the exercise of his staff privileges at the Hospital.  This followed disciplinary action by the Hospital’s peer review committee which summarily suspended Dr. Kibler’s privileges a year before and also brought a workplace violence injunction against him  pursuant to Civil Code section 527.8.

In response to Dr. Kibler’s action for damages, the defendants moved to strike the complaint in its entirety based on California’s anti-SLAPP statute, Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16.  Defendants argued that because hospital peer review is mandated by California Business & Professions Code sections 800-809 et seq. and is reviewable by administrative mandamus, it meets the criteria under subsection e(2) of the anti-SLAPP statute for “official proceedings authorized by law” and therefore the first two prongs was met under the statute.

Additionally, the defendants argued that Dr. Kibler could not prove a probability of prevailing on the merits of his case at trial under prong two of the anti-SLAPP statute because he failed to exhaust his internal administrative and external judicial remedies pursuant to Westlake Community Hospital v. Superior Court (1976) 17 Cal.3d 465 and had released any and all claims against the defendants pursuant to a release agreement entered into on January 3, 2002.

The trial court, the Hon. Edward Forstenzer presiding, granted defendants’ anti-SLAPP motion and subsequently awarded them $67,591.70 in attorneys’ fees.  The California Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division One, affirmed the trial court’s decision in full.  Prior to the Supreme Court of California’s ruling on July 20, 2006, the parties entered into a mutual settlement and mutual release of any and all claims whereby Dr. Kibler paid a total of $82,241.00 to the defendants in attorneys’ fees and interest pursuant to the anti-SLAPP statute, in consideration for Dr. Kibler dismissing with prejudice the action pending before the Supreme Court and a second tort action filed by Dr. Kibler as to which the defendants also filed an anti-SLAPP motion.  The Defendants also waived any right to additional attorneys’ fees on appeal pursuant to CCP section 425.16.

Carlo Coppo, the lead attorney on the case in the trial court, with vast experience in defending medical staff litigation, strongly believes that “physicians who voluntarily serve on peer review committees should not have to continually look over their shoulders in fear of premature million dollar lawsuits designed to disrupt the peer review system itself.” On this basis, we successfully argued at the trial court level that the attempt to end these premature lawsuits pursuant to the anti-SLAPP statute was a winning argument, and after getting the deserved close attention from our state’s highest court the Supreme Court agreed.  To learn more about this and other important healthcare issues, please contact our office.

Carlo Coppo Appears Before California Senate

Thursday, June 1st, 2006

Carlo Coppo appeared June 7, 2006 to give testimony before the California Senate on proposed bill AB 1316. The proposed bill addresses matters of indemnification of hospital peer review physicians by the Hospital when they are sued for actions taken in their roles on peer review committees.

DiCaro, Coppo & Popcke - Attorneys at Law

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