Two lawsuits involving Dr. Eric Cerwonka have resulted in decisions in recent months.
In 2017 Cerwonka appealed the results of a decision by the state board that revoked his license. At a preliminary hearing for a Motion to Stay, Judge Michael Caldwell of the 19th Judicial District Court vacated and made void the Board’s decision. Caldwell was reported to say, in a sidebar discussion, “I read the briefs and I read the pleadings. I just can’t send this up to the Court of Appeals, the violations of Due Process are rampant.”
However, in February Judge Caldwell reversed his 2017 decision.
This came after the Board’s attorney, Ms. Amy Lowe, appealed to the State of Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal to argue two of the due process matters: 1) the board used attorneys from the same law firm, and 2) the board’s prosecuting attorney had been previously involved with Cerwonka in a child custody case and fee dispute.
In April 2018, the Court of Appeal agreed with Lowe and the matter was then returned to district court for further proceedings.
In another lawsuit, related to the LSBEP complaint, a husband and wife brought a civil suit against Cerwonka in the 15th Judicial District in Lafayette. The plaintiffs sought damages for injuries due to alleged sexual misconduct and malpractice by Cerwonka.
That trial ended in October 2018 when the Lafayette jury concluded that there was no cause of an injury to either the wife or the husband due to Cerwonka’s actions.
However, the jury did find that “… Dr. Cerwonka was negligent, i.e., acting below the level of the ordinary employee, under similar circumstances by the members of his profession,” in his treatment of the wife. No negligent acts were attributed to Cerwonka for the husband and the jury awarded no damages to either the husband or the wife plaintiff.
On January 29, 2019, shortly before Judge Caldwell gave his February decision, the attorneys for the couple who had filed the Lafayette civil suit, submitted a Motion and Order to File Amicus Curiae Brief–a Friend of the Court, with Judge Caldwell in Baton Rouge.
In the 36-page Brief, the attorneys for the Lafayette couple, Edward Walters, Jr. and J.E. Cullens, Jr., presented arguments and opinions against Cerwonka, including excerpts from the Lafayette trial and depositions.
Currently, the LSBEP is also waiting on another legal battle over time limits, which has been on appeal but apparently dormant since 2015.
The time limits case, Dr. Cerwonka’s case, and another investigation of Dr. Alicia Pelligrin which was dismissed under the encouragement of the Board’s general council, contributed in part to skyrocketing legal fees coming out of the Board’s 2014, 2015, and 2016 complaints subcommittee.
According to public records the Board’s escalating legal fees stemmed primarily from fees from the Board Prosecutor, held at that time by Mr. James Raines. Over 2015 to 2016, and into January 2017, Mr. Raines prosecuted 16 cases. Three of these 16 cases amounted to $146,987 of fees from Mr. Raines.
The Board worked in closed meetings during 2018 to create reforms to its complaints subcommittee process. Mr. Raines no longer appears to be one of the Board’s contract attorneys.