State's chiropractic board rarely takes licenses away

Questions linger in controversial legal case

DENVER - The Department of Regulatory Agencies and the Attorney General's Office are charged with protecting you from bad and incompetent providers, but a series of CALL7 investigations reveals flaws in the disciplinary system that left consumers vulnerable.

State officials have received 540 complaints against chiropractors and launched 463 complaint investigations since 2007. The vast majority of the cases -- 73 percent -- ended in dismissal, meaning there was no discipline at all.

CALL7 Investigators found the chiropractic board rarely revoked or suspended a license -- just 13 times since 2007. In the remaining cases, chiropractors were allowed to continue practicing, facing actions such as a letter of admonition or stipulations to improve practices or administration.

Since dismissed complaints are not public, it is impossible to know how each case ended.

In one case, where the board alleged chiropractor Brandon Credeur misled consumers in advertising and practiced outside the scope of his expertise, legal experts say the Attorney General's Office made a basic mistake. The office, which spent more than 3,000 hours on the case, failed to call a qualified chiropractor to testify in proceedings, according to experts and records reviewed by CALL7 Investigators.

Kevin Mahoney, an attorney familiar with civil medical cases, said the best legal strategy is to call an expert with similar or identical experience (web extra: Read the citation below ).

"What I say doesn't matter," Mahoney said.  "It's what the expert witness in that field says. It's kind of a common sense thing, at least in what I do, that you can't start the case without that."

Attorney General John Suthers' staff acts as attorneys for the chiropractic board and representatives of the board or the Department of Regulatory Agencies. CALL7 Investigators repeatedly asked for interviews with Suthers, but those requests were denied.

CALL7 Investigator Theresa Marchetta caught up with Suthers last week in the parking lot outside his downtown Denver office.

"Make it fast," Suthers told Marchetta.

"There are experts who look at this and say that there was a rookie mistake made here," Marchetta said, noting a chiropractor had not been called to testify.

Suthers even blamed people who complained to CALL7 about the chiropractor for weaknesses in his office's case.

"Interestingly  enough," Suthers said, "a lot of the people who came to you never came forward when we were looking for witnesses."

In Credeur's case, the board found only that the chiropractor needed to keep better paperwork, and Credeur said, in web videos, that he was unfairly targeted.

Asked if the chiropractic board is protecting patients or chiropractors, board President Chad Abercrombie, a chiropractor, defended the board's actions.

"You know what?" Abercrombie said. "We protect the public."

John Morse, a state senator, disagreed.

"Maybe we should not be funding the board of chiropractic," Morse said. "I mean if this is what they do, it is a waste of the taxpayer's money. To heck with it." 

CALL7 Investigators have learned that concerns about Credeur's practices are ongoing. The state's Board of Medical Examiners has now opened an investigation "regarding allegations of the unlicensed practice of medicine," an official confirmed.

FROM THE HEALTH CARE AVAILABILITY ACT:

13-64-401. Qualifications as expert witness in medical malpractice actions or proceedings.

No person shall be qualified to testify as an expert witness concerning issues of negligence in any medical malpractice action or proceeding against a physician unless he not only is a licensed physician but can demonstrate by competent evidence that, as a result of training, education, knowledge, and experience in the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of the disease or injury which is the subject matter of the action or proceeding against the physician defendant, he was substantially familiar with applicable standards of care and practice as they relate to the act or omission which is the subject of the claim on the date of the incident. The court shall not permit an expert in one medical subspecialty to testify against a physician in another medical subspecialty unless, in addition to such a showing of substantial familiarity, there is a showing that the standards of care and practice in the two fields are similar. The limitations in this section shall not apply to expert witnesses testifying as to the degree or permanency of medical or physical impairment.