I-TEAM: Documents show hospital trying to distance itself from former Jacksonville surgeon facing malpractice lawsuits

Hundreds of lawsuits filed against Dr. David Heekin, Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside

Dozens of patients claim Dr. David Heekin operated on them after he’d been diagnosed with a progressive neurological condition that caused him to slur his speech and lose his balance leading to the alleged malpractice. Plaintiffs allege the hospital knew of his condition and still allowed him to perform surgeries. Now, according to documents that we’ve obtained, the hospital is now trying to distance itself from the doctor.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There’s an update to a News4JAX I-TEAM investigation into a former orthopedic surgeon at Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside hospital whose facing hundreds of malpractice lawsuits.

Lawyers for St. Vincent’s Medical Center recently responded to one of the plaintiff’s lawsuits.

Dozens of patients claim Dr. David Heekin operated on them after he’d been diagnosed with a progressive neurological condition that caused him to slur his speech and lose his balance leading to the alleged malpractice. Plaintiffs allege the hospital knew of his condition and still allowed him to perform surgeries. Now, according to documents that we’ve obtained, the hospital is now trying to distance itself from the doctor.

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”When I did my preop, that’s when I noticed his slurred speech, his eye movement was very slow,” said Jacqueline Rivera, who is one of the hundreds of plaintiffs suing Heekin and Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside, alleging the health system knew about the doctor’s impairment but let him continue to perform surgeries.

Lawyers allege Heekin caused hundreds of injuries while operating with a neurological condition.

One of those plaintiffs is Cooper Mooney, who, according to legal documents, is seeking in excess of $30,000 from Heekin and Ascension St. Vincent’s Medical Center (SVMC) for damages.

In their complaint, lawyers for Mooney allege a relationship between SVMC and Heekin, writing that in 2000, Heekin was granted privileges to practice at SVMC, and Heekin scheduled and performed all of his patients’ orthopedic surgeries exclusively at SVMC. Heekin’s practice, Heekin Clinic, was located in the office building owned and operated by SVMC. In their answer, lawyers for the hospital denied this allegation.

Lawyers for Mooney also allege that from 2016 to 2020, Heekin committed hundreds of medical errors as a direct result of his impairment and due to his physical and mental condition and was unable to practice medicine with reasonable skill and safety, and by virtue of these errors and adverse outcomes, SVMC knew or should have known, that Heekin posed a substantial danger to patients. Lawyers for St. Vincent’s denied these allegations and asked the court to strike them from the complaint as immaterial, scandalous and irrelevant.

Lawyers for SVMC also deny Heekin routinely performed inappropriate skin and joint incisions, as well as surgeries where he severed tendons and severed nerves.

SVMC has also filed a crossclaim in the lawsuit, alleging that the doctor and his clinic — and not St. Vincent — are responsible for any alleged injuries suffered by the doctor’s patients. St. Vincent’s claims that if the hospital is found liable for any of the plaintiffs’ injuries, that the doctor and his clinic must be required to foot the bill.

In 2021, Heekin relinquished his medical license, at the conclusion of a state Board of Medicine investigation alleging injuries during a surgery, according to state records.

Nearly 350 lawsuits have been filed against Heekin. News4JAX reached out to lawyers for the plaintiff, attorneys for SVMC and lawyers representing Heekin himself. We are waiting for a response.


About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.