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Abortion Doctor Says Settle Suit Or Lose Millions

By Editorial Staff
Published April 30, 1996

Dr. James Pendergraft Says Going To Court Would Cost Orlando More Than The Almost $1 Million Settlement He Seeks

By Sherri M. Owens of The Sentinel Staff

An abortion doctor issued the city of Orlando an ultimatum Monday: Settle this week or face losing millions of dollars.

Dr. James Pendergraft, an obstetrician and gynecologist, sued the city in December and is seeking almost $1 million in lost wages and attorney’s fees.

“They (city officials) are playing with taxpayers’ money here,” said Pendergraft, 38, who spoke before the City Council on Monday. “This is not about what I want or what the city wants. This is the law of the land.”

Pendergraft, who owns the Orlando Women’s Center at 1103 Lucerne Terrace, had been trying to get a permit to perform second-trimester abortions since August 1995. The city opposed it, but a federal judge ruled in his favor earlier this month.

If no settlement is reached by Friday, he predicted the city might lose millions in a legal fight. Pendergraft is asking the city for lost wages, ranging from $426,836.29 to $807,917.85, plus $150,000 in attorney’s fees.

“I’m not going any lower than that offer because I deserve more,” Pendergraft said.

The city initially issued him a permit to perform first-trimester abortions. The city said recovery time after second-trimester abortions was 90 minutes or more, making the facility a clinic in an area zoned for medical offices and homes.

U.S. District Judge Patricia Fawsett wrote in her order April 18 that “the more credible evidence” showed normal observation and recovery time for second-trimester abortions is less than one hour.

City Attorney Bob Hamilton said he was surprised by Pendergraft’s urgency because he already had scheduled a meeting for Thursday with Pendergraft’s attorney. Hamilton would not speculate on what the city might do.

Pendergraft, who said he started performing second-trimester abortions after Fawsett’s ruling, will wait until Thursday’s meeting.

“These people want to play around and I wish they would stop doing that,” he said. “What I have on the table is something they should be able to live with. My hope is that they take it very seriously. If they’re not serious about it, don’t waste my time on Thursday.”

Pendergraft said he calculated lost wages from December 1995, despite the city hearing officer’s saying he should have been allowed to open in August 1995.


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