TOWSON — When Sykesville psychiatrist Angel Losada lost the right to prescribe medicine to his Springfield Hospital Center patients nearly three years ago, he sued his bosses for $2.4 million, insisting he was penalized for exercising his constitutional rights in criticizing some hospital policies.
But when Losada, Springfield Superintendent Bruce Hershfield and Springfield Clinical Director David Waltos gathered infront of a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge here yesterday, theyall agreed to keep their mouths tightly shut.
"It's kind of ironic in a First Amendment case," said Judith L. Stainbrook, who, along with law partner Stephen P. Bourexis, filed thesuit against Hershfield and Waltos in 1989. "But I cannot comment onthis case."
The suit was settled yesterday morning before a jury could be found to hear arguments. In the chambers of Circuit Judge Lawrence S. Jacobson, all sides agreed to undisclosed conditions. The only condition made public was the gag order imposed on all parties.
Carl F. Ameringer, an assistant state attorney general representingSpringfield, could not be reached for comment at his Baltimore office yesterday afternoon.
The suit was filed in Baltimore County Circuit Court because both Hershfield and Waltos live here.
Arguments on the admissibility of evidence or the testimony of certain witnesses -- including a quashed plaintiff's subpoena requesting the presenceof Lt. Gov. Melvin G. Steinberg -- took up most of Monday morning and afternoon. A jury was to be selected yesterday morning, but settlement negotiations began before jury selection got under way. The judgeapproved the settlement late yesterday morning.
The suit had contended that Hershfield and Waltos retaliated against Losada -- who retired in 1991 after more than 30 years on the hospital's staff -- for "the exercise of his constitutionally protected right to freedom of speech."
According to the suit, Losada had for more than three years spoken out on "various hospital policies implemented by Hershfield,involving not only the pressure to discharge patients who were not ready to be discharged, but including such issues as patient violence,the absence of adequate patient treatment due to unnecessary overcrowding and the abolition of rehabilitative psychiatry."
Hershfield had maintained a secret file on Losada, who was considered to be among a group of physicians singled out for possible discharge because ofhis views, the suit said.
The contents of that file, according tothe suit, were used "to discredit him for his views on the public policy of the hospital regarding patient care."
In addition to the suspension of his prescription-writing privileges, Losada was transferred to eight different wards in a three-year period.