Judge dismisses ex-lawmaker’s medical malpractice suit

Citing a failure to serve a copy of the summons and complaint to the Office of the Attorney General, the Superior Court dismissed yesterday a medical malpractice lawsuit filed by former Saipan lawmaker Ana S. Teregeyo.

In dismissing the suit without prejudice, Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho said Teregeyo filed the complaint pro se or without a lawyer on May 9, 2016, and named the CNMI government as a defendant.

Dismissal with prejudice allows the former lawmaker to refile the lawsuit.

Camacho said Teregeyo’s declaration shows that the summons and complaint were delivered to Bernie Itibus at the Commonwealth Health Center Office of the Chief Executive Officer on Navy Hill on May 9.

However, the judge noted, the Commonwealth Health Center is not a named a defendant in this case.

Camacho said the Commonwealth Rules of Civil Procedure is very clear: When suing the CNMI government, a copy of the summons and complaint must be delivered to the OAG.

“Here, neither the attorney general, his clerical staff, nor any assistant attorney general were served with a copy of the summons and complaint at the Office of the Attorney General,” Camacho pointed out.

Teregeyo is suing the CNMI government for negligence arising from the same allegations in her 2nd amended complaint when her left knee and leg became infected, necessitating five more surgeries and an artificial knee replacement.

Teregeyo alleged that, as a result of gross negligence, she almost lost her leg. She claimed that only because she had the means to get off island and obtain professional care was her leg saved.

The former lawmaker said what happened to her at CHC should never happen to anyone.

Teregeyo asked the court to issue a default judgment against the government.

In response, the government, through the OAG, opposed the request for entry of default judgment and asked the court to dismiss the complaint.

At the hearing last July 31, Teregeyo appeared without counsel. OAG Civil Division chief Christopher Timmons argued for the government.

In his order yesterday, Camacho said Teregeyo failed to show any attempts to serve the OAG or circumstances that prevented her from serving the CNMI government in a timely manner.

Camacho said Teregeyo had ample time to discover the proper party to serve after incorrectly serving CHCC.

In the footnote of his order, the judge said there are ambiguities in the plaintiff’s allegations of facts that hamper the full determination of whether she filed within the two-year statute of limitations.

Therefore, Camacho said, the court cannot adequately apply the alleged facts to determine whether the statute of limitation has passed.

“Without more, the court cannot dismiss this action with prejudice,” he said.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com
Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.