A medical malpractice lawsuit filed over two decades ago by Montana Democrat Rob Quist invited scrutiny from the doctor's attorney, who uncovered a history of preexisting conditions and drug use and cast doubt that Quist could have made it in the music industry, according to Flathead County District Court filings obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
At issue in the October 1994 lawsuit filed by Quist, who is currently running for Congress, was a gallbladder operation that Quist used as recently as March to excuse more than $27,000 in debts and property taxes that were not paid off until this year. Quist and his wife sought damage relief not only for his medical expenses and lost wages during treatment but also for derailing his music career, which he now says was "getting ready to pop" at the time.
Quist's campaign stated its intention on Monday to make the operation a theme of his congressional run before the May 25 special election to replace secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. Court documents and other records, however, call into question Quist's version of events. The Quist campaign had not returned multiple requests for comment by press time.
The doctor, a surgeon named Dr. Roch Boyer who is still working in Montana, denied all allegations of wrongdoing put forth by Quist, stating that he acted appropriately during the procedure. He also set out to learn more about Quist, who claimed that the doctor's actions resulted in a deterioration of his health, career, and relationship with his family.
Among the findings were that Quist entered the procedure with a preexisting genital herpes condition, had previously tested positive for tuberculosis, and had confided in a marriage counselor tasked with saving his "failing marriage" that he smoked marijuana.
The disclosures were made in a motion in limine filed by Quist's attorney, who objected to the use of the information in the case. The motion and related pleadings in the case were publicly available in the Flathead County courthouse.
Also uncovered by the defense was the fact that troubles in Quist's pursuit of a music career were nothing new. In 1981, Quist was the target of three lawsuits filed by former members of his band—two were to collect debts from Quist and another was to terminate a partnership with him.
Quist objected to the use of sensitive issues such as his preexisting condition and drug usage by the defense.
"Nothing in Rob Quist's case has anything to do with a pre-existing condition of genital herpes," argued Quist's lawyer in a February 1996 filing. "The defendant is not entitled to discuss every personal, confidential, and private medical matter without the consent or waiver of Rob."
"[Quist] has not placed his genital herpes condition at issue in this action, and therefore any testimony directed at his medical records should be stricken," the lawyer wrote.
Dr. Boyer's legal representatives disagreed, stating that all the evidence was relevant given Quist's claims of "a variety of problems including lethargy, depression, and lack of energy."
"If any of the conditions that Rob Quist is complaining about are caused or contributed to by the things which his counsel is trying to exclude, then they should not be excluded," the doctor's lawyer wrote.
The defense planned to present doctors during the trial who would explain how Quist's medical complaints were likely the result of factors unrelated to the gallbladder surgery, including a thyroid issue.
The defense also planned to dispel Quist's claims that he had a budding country music career, with two Nashville music executives slated to explain how "extremely unlikely" Quist's prospects were.
"Given Mr. Quist's age and choice of the kind of singer he has chosen to be, and the type of competition that exists in the country music market today, it is extremely unlikely that Mr. Quist could have become a country music star, regardless of whether he had suffered an injury," the executives were to explain.
"Prior to the surgery … Quist faced overwhelming odds in his quest to become a star as a country music recording artist," they argued. "He was a man in his forties trying to start a recording artist's career in a market whose demographics are limited to 18 to 30-year-olds." They added, "His singing voice, while pleasant, not without talent, lacks the kind of distinctive quality or identity which would distinguish it from the many other potential recording artists that are available at a moment's notice in Nashville."
The executives believed that Quist's chances would have been "virtually nil" without at least a $500,000 commitment from a major record label, and that this was never going to happen.
Quist's lawyer objected to the use of the music executives in court due to a legal technicality, not because their testimony was irrelevant.
Quist was planning to put forth his own Nashville executive to state that Quist had a chance, but the testimony was weakened after the defense lawyer learned that Quist's expert had never seen him perform solo. He was also unable to name a single person in Quist's situation who ever emerged as a national recording artist after the age of 44.
One month after the doctor's lawyer refused to exclude mention of Quist's preexisting condition, tuberculosis, and drug use from his case, the two sides agreed that the case could be dismissed.
It is unclear whether any monetary compensation in the settlement was reached. Both sides paid their own legal fees.
Neither Quist's lawyer Monte Beck nor Dr. Boyer's lawyer Larry Riley responded to interview requests for this story. Dr. Boyer also chose not to discuss the case.
Quist said in March that he is unable to discuss the case in great detail due to his settlement with the doctor. Quist has also said on numerous occasions that the surgery occurred in 1996, even though court documents show that it was on April 21, 1992.
Quist's contention during the campaign that his failure to pay taxes and other debts due to the 1992 surgery does not seem plausible, according to financial information provided during the case. The Quists disclosed that they brought in $136,412 in gross income in 1994.
Real estate records also show that Quist's wife, Bonni Quist, has sold over $15 million worth of property since 2006, which would have earned her just under half-a-million dollars if estimated using standard commission rates.
In 2007, the year the Quists failed to pay thousands of dollars in property taxes, Bonni Quist was the agent for three real estate sales each valued at nearly $1 million.
Quist has managed to keep his music career afloat since the lawsuit, though he never emerged as the country star he once thought he would become. In 2007, for example, Quist performed nearly 50 times, according to an archived version of his website.
It is unclear how much Quist was paid for those performances, though in recent years he gets paid a few thousand dollars per performance, according to his recently filed financial disclosure.
In recent years Quist has also been able to secure steady gigs at a nudist resort in Idaho, records show.